Cold sores, fever blisters…whatever name you use, you know what they are if you suffer from them. They are annoying, painful and extremely common. Even though they are so common, I find that there are many myths and misconceptions floating around about these little buggers. So, let’s have a cold sore debriefing…
*Cold sore have nothing to do with the cold, fevers or genetics.
*If you have a cold sore, do not rub, touch or pick at it. If you do touch it, wash your hands. This is a way that you can spread the virus to other spots on your own body or spread it to others.
*Do not share food, drinks, lipstick/chapstick or kisses with someone with active cold sores. If you have one, do not offer to share these things with anyone from the minute you feel it “coming on” until it is completely healed.
*Cold sores and canker sores are totally different. Canker sores are inside the mouth, cold sores are most often on the edge of the lips or nose most commonly.
*Taking oral antiviral medication can suppress the number of cold sores you get, and can shorten how long one sore lasts.
*Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus or “HSV”. This a subtype of the same virus that causes genital herpes. A cold sore CAN spread the “cold sore subtype” of the virus to the genital area via oral sex. (HSV2 or the “genital subtype” can have several serious consequences and that is a topic for another day)
*Stress, sunlight, immune suppression are all triggers to getting a cold sore. Those of you who have had one know this for sure; before the big exam or work meeting, BAM! There it is.
I wish I could say we have a cure for cold sores, but for now we can only manage them. Try not to get too frustrated by these little visitors and do the best you can to avoid triggers that can cause a flare. (Quit your job! Kidding.) Topical over the counter treatments like Abreva can be helpful in managing the symptoms and can slightly reduce the amount of time an outbreak lasts.