Cold sores, the painful blisters caused by the oral strain of the herpes virus, can appear quickly and with very little warning. To understand how to treat a cold sore, it is important to understand the general phases of the virus’ life cycle.
The Latent Phase: This is the time you are not suffering from any out breaks. Everyone is different and every person’s body reacts differently to the virus that causes cold sores. This phase could be the weeks between outbreaks, the months between outbreaks, or the year between outbreaks. However long it lasts, this is your “normal,” cold sore free period.
During this Phase: A strong immune system enables your body to keep the virus inactive. Anything that you can do to maintain a healthy body and healthy lifestyle will help to keep the Latent Phase lasting as long as possible. Vitamin C, drinking lots of water, a balanced diet, fresh air and exercise will all help not only your over-all well being, but keep those pesky, painful sores at bay.
Lysine is a natural component of the foods we eat. More lysine in your diet can help prevent cold sores, and it can also help to reduce the severity and duration of cold sores that do appear. Lysine occurs naturally in dairy, meat, fish, eggs and beans. It is also available as a dietary supplement.
The Inflammation Phase
This phase is the beginning of the cold sore itself. During this phase you may notice slight pain or an itching sensation as the virus swarms itself into activity, forming a tiny, hard bubble inside the tissue of your lip. This phase frequently goes unnoticed, but it is your first chance to attack the sore and minimize the length of your suffering.
During this Phase: It is important during the Inflammation Phase that you avoid touching, scratching, poking, or rubbing the area where the sore is forming. Worrying the sore at any stage will only cause it to become more inflamed, uglier, and more painful.
The Open Sore Phase
After a few days have passed, the sore erupts through the surface of the skin, manifesting itself as a swollen, red, weeping sore. This is the most uncomfortable, as well as the most contagious phase. The sore will scab over within a day or two, and that painful crusty scab will remain on your face for several days.
During this Phase: If you haven’t already started, now is the time to apply topical remedies directly to the sore. There are a wide variety of topical options: herbs like honeysuckle or lemon balm are very popular and included in many lip balms. Lotions containing zinc are also thought to help reduce the duration of cold sores. Any cream or balm with a petroleum jelly base will help keep the sore from drying out, avoiding the pain caused by the sore splitting open.
The Healing Phase: Soon, the blister begins to shrink, the pain and itching lessen. The cold sore is on the run! In a few days it will be nothing more than a memory.
During this Phase: Keep up what you’ve been doing! That balm or ointment has been doing the trick, so keep at it!