How to Heal Cold Sores and Everything Else You Need to Know When You Have Cold Sores

Health / Life

A man having cold sores. / Photo by: Getty Images


Oral sores can be caused by the simplest of things. Maybe you’ve accidentally injured your mouth as you drank something too hot or when you ended up biting your tongue as you were chewing food. However, there are certain mouth sores that can be caused by something far more serious than that, like cold sores.


According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, approximately 40% to 85% of Americans have had cold sores at some point in their lives.


What are the causes of frequent cold sores?

A herpes simplex virus positive blood test. / Photo by: Getty Images


According to the National Institutes of Health, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). You may have heard about HSV as the contagious virus that causes genital sores in the sexually-transmitted infection called herpes.


Genital sores are caused by the type 2 HSV, unlike cold sores that are caused by type 1 HSV. HSV is very contagious. It can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact even when the infected person isn’t showing symptoms.


The resulting cold sores appear in clusters of tiny fluid-filled blisters that often appear around the edge of the lips. It can also be accompanied by tingling, itching, or a burning sensation. When the blisters pop, a crust would form over them and they should disappear in about a couple of weeks later.


Generally, an infected individual is more likely to be contagious when the cold sores are present, which can also appear on the nose, cheeks, and fingers aside from the mouth and the lips. Other symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, swollen gums, and flu-like symptoms may also be present.


What is the treatment for cold sores?

An aloe vera gel. / Photo by: Getty Images


Once you’ve been infected with the HSV, it would stay dormant in your body throughout your life. There is no cure for HSV so the treatment for cold sores would focus on alleviating the pain and managing its symptoms.


You can use a cold compress, over-the-counter creams, aloe vera gels, and over-the-counter painkillers to manage your symptoms.


It’s also important to understand your triggers. People who are infected with HSV don’t always have an outbreak of cold sores. The virus would just lie dormant in their bodies until some factors trigger their outbreak.


You can also make a gargle for cold sores by mixing a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of warm water. You can rinse your mouth with this gargle several times throughout the day to relieve the discomfort caused by the cold sores.


What is the medication for cold sores?

A doctor prescribing a medicine. / Photo by: Getty Images


There are plenty of over-the-counter medications for cold sores that you can use to manage your symptoms, like pain relievers and numbing agents for the cold sores.


However, your doctor may also prescribe an antiviral medication for cold sores to speed up the healing process or prevent its recurrence. These may include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.


You should take this medication within the first 48 hours of the cold sores outbreak, which is when they are most effective.


Taking supplements and vitamins for cold sores

Vitamin C supplements. / Photo by: Getty Images


While they can’t be cured, you can try taking supplements and vitamins for cold sores. These should work by strengthening your immune system so that you won’t get infected with the herpes simplex virus.


Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but it also has antiviral properties. You should take 3 to 4 grams of vitamin C daily and make sure to include vitamin-C rich foods into your diet to make sure you’re getting enough.


Zinc and lysine are also good for strengthening your immune system or reducing the severity and frequency of outbreaks if you’re already infected with HSV.


Getting cold sores during pregnancy

A young boy hugging his mother's womb. / Photo by: Getty Images


If you’re pregnant and you have had a history of cold sores, it’s also possible that you can spread the virus to your baby.


Austin-based pediatrician Timothy Spence explained that this is especially true for pregnant women with active genital sores which can transmit the virus to the newborn during labor.


Mothers who have this concern may talk to their doctor about getting a cesarean section instead of normal delivery to avoid transmitting the virus to the baby.


However, it’s still possible to spread the virus to your baby even if the mother doesn’t currently have active genital sores because the virus can stay dormant in the mother’s body throughout her life.


What are the good food for cold sores?

A wooden chopping board surrounded by green vegetables. / Photo by: Getty Images


While it’s important to prevent certain triggers and manage your symptoms well to promote the healing of cold sores, it’s also important to take note of what you’re eating.


There are certain good foods for the cold sores, that would help speed up healing or prevent new outbreaks from occurring. Dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese; eggs; chicken; fruits; and fish are rich in L-lysine, which is an amino acid that would work against the L-arginine.


The HSV needs L-arginine to replicate so eating foods rich in L-lysine would effectively help reduce the chances of the cold sores replicating.


Vitamin C-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, oranges, and green peppers are also good for speeding up the healing of cold sores and for strengthening your immune system.