Is there anything worse than a little crusty cluster on the side of your lip? I’m not talking about leftover potato chip crumbs from your late–night snack. I mean our nemesis, the cold sore, a.k.a. the fever blister. More than 50% of the population has oral herpes (yep, I said it: herrrrrppeeess) and about 90% has been exposed to the virus before the age of 50. And once you have the herp you cannot get rid of it (it’s called the gift that keeps on giving for a reason). Similar to the chicken pox and the shingle virus, and a sibling of the virus that causes herpes in our downstairs area, cold sores, or Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (or just HSV-1) affects our mouth, nose, cheeks, fingers and more. It hides out in your nerve cells, which is why it’s so difficult to eradicate. Although no cure exists, there are allopathic and naturopathic suppressive therapies available.
If you’re one of the unlucky ones who frequently get cold sores, you know the warning signs; if you’re not, you may not be aware of the familiar prodromes (symptoms) that let us know it’s time to cancel that Friday night date.
They are: a tingle or itch around the mouth, nose or cheek; a small, hard, painful spot in typical breakout areas (don’t kid yourself—it’s not “just a pimple”); and swollen or sore lymph nodes.
If you’re feeling any of these, you know what’s coming: soon you’ll see a blister or a group of blisters that will eventually rupture and ooze. The ooze will then harden, leaving you with a crusty lesion that’s painful and contagious. The whole ordeal lasts about seven to 14 days, or for a hibernation period equivalent to three full series on Netflix, all the food in your freezer and eight Amazon Prime deliveries. The sore thankfully heals without a scar, but you know you’ll see the little bugger again soon.
It may be impossible to avoid exposure to the virus and even more difficult to avoid outbreak once you’ve been exposed.
Some common triggers that can lead to a cold sore are:
- A change in seasons
- Extreme weather conditions (wind, sun, cold)
- Illness or a weakened immune system
- Hormone shifts
- Extreme fatigue
So, basically, if you’re a living, breathing human on this planet, you can safely assume you’ve been exposed. However, not to fear: here are a few tips to help prevent outbreaks and some preventative medicine suggestions.
Avoid foods like nuts, meats and legumes, which are high in arginine—arginine apparently aids in the virus replication process.
Consider trying a lysine supplement, which helps reduce recurrence and speeds recovery.
Keep your immune system in check with immune–supporting supplements like vitamin C or zinc.
Try OTC medication, like Abreva or a cold sore bandage.
Get your hands on some Sorlex, which is getting some buzz within the medical community.
If your outbreaks are frequent or severe, consult your healthcare provider for a more personalized suppressive therapy.