Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. This virus can lay dormant until an outbreak, and the sores last anywhere from 7 to 14 days. Therefore, the ideal strategy is to learn about and prevent the situations which cause the virus to activate in the first place. If you do get a cold sore, you can also do several things to decrease your pain and speed the healing process.
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- Understand why the virus activates. Stress, anxiety, sun exposure or cold winds, and sicknesses such as the flu or a cold can bring on cold sores. You can take steps to reduce your stress level, try not to get sick, and stay out of harsh weather. Apply sunscreen to your lips with at least SPF 15 to protect your lips from the sun. However, if you do find yourself in these situations, you can at least anticipate a cold sore and start proactive treatment before it forms.
- Don't cover it with makeup. Makeup will just irritate a cold sore. Although cold sores can be unattractive, it is best not to cover them up with makeup unless absolutely necessary.
- Use medication. Use a petroleum-based balm or a pain relief cream. This will help your cold sore heal faster, and also help it from becoming worse through a secondary bacterial infection. However, take care not to spread the balm or cream outside the cold sore area, or you will make your cold sore larger. Also take medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen, which can help ease the pain of a cold sore.
- Avoid certain foods. Salty or acidic foods like potato chips or citrus fruits can irritate cold sores, so you should avoid these foods if you want your cold sores to heal quickly. For some people, these foods can also bring the virus out of dormancy, causing cold sores.
- Visit your doctor. If you get cold sores frequently, visit your doctor for additional help getting rid of them. There are several antiviral medications which may be suitable to help you get rid of cold sores. There are also prescription-strength creams to help with the pain of cold sores, when you do get them.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your cold sores. This will help your cold sores heal much faster. Cold sores are spread through physical contact, so touching it allows it to spread to other parts or your face, or to other people. Cold sores can be very itchy, but you must resist scratching them. Instead, gently clean them with a washcloth and hot, soapy water, taking care not to rub too much, which will irritate it, or rub the area around the sore, spreading it.
It can be very difficult to avoid cold sores completely, but you can take steps to avoid the situations which bring them on and take care of them to reduce healing time.