The majority of Americans carry the virus that causes cold sores. By the time we reach old age, nearly all of us will carry it. There is no cure for this virus, and once someone is infected they will carry it for the rest of their life. A lifetime carrying an incurable virus sounds like a grim prognosis, but the truth is that most people who carry this virus only suffer from one or two outbreaks per year, and there are a wide variety of treatment options available, both prescription and over the counter, modern as well as traditional, topical or internal.
If your cold sores are severe, or if you have certain risk factors such as a compromised immune system, your doctor may prescribe an anti-viral drug, such as valaciclovir (Valtrex.) These drugs inhibit the virus’ ability to reproduce itself and can dramatically reduce both the duration and severity of an attack. For simple cold sores these drugs may be over kill, but if you have severe cold sores it is important to know that they are an option and ask your doctor if they might be the right choice for your specific needs.
Another FDA approved option is the topical drug, docosanol, the active ingredient in Abreva, which works in a similar way, isolating the virus and preventing it from reproducing. Over the counter lip balms using docosanol have been found to be as effective as a prescription cream at reducing the duration of cold sores, and are frequently in a petroleum base, which helps keep the sore moist and prevent painful cracking. Lip balms with docosanol may also include helpful herbal agents that will further speed healing and deliver relief.
Herbal Remedies For Cold Sores?
Although the FDA does not evaluate the claims of herbal remedies, some have been used for centuries to treat cold sores. Lemon balm has been shown to reduce the time needed to recover from a cold sore dramatically and has been used in Europe since the Middle Ages. Echinacea was used by the Native Americans on the plains and was adopted by American scientists for use against snake bites and infectious diseases. The Lakota specifically used Echinacea as a tea, to treat pain. Fruits with high anti-oxidant counts, like blue berries, black currants and rhubarb, are also thought to help with cold sores. Topical application of vitamin E is also a very popular treatment.
Many commercial remedies are available now that combine several of these herbal products in one stick or balm, hopefully providing a single solution that alleviates your cold sore with many different solutions simultaneously.
How To Keep Cold Sores In Check!
No matter what treatment path you chose, remember that the virus that causes cold sores is normally kept in check by your immune system. Keeping your immune system strong with a balanced diet and vitamins like C and zinc, and keeping your body healthy with exercise and plenty of water will stave off those painful, ichy, ugly irritations before they even show up. The best way to treat a cold sore is to not get one!