If you occasionally get a cold sore, take solace in the fact that you are by no means alone! By adolescence, 62% of Americans are infected with HSV-1, or herpes simplex virus 1, the main cause of the painful and unsightly sores, which normally last anywhere from 7 days to two weeks. HSV-1 is a virus that lays dormant in the nervous system, with little reason to make an appearance unless something wakes the sleeping giant. Therefore, you need to know the triggers so you can ward off cold sores at all costs:
Cold Sore Triggers
- A compromised immune system
- Infections, colds and flu
- Food allergies
- Exposure to bright sun
- Dental work
While there is no cure for cold sores, learning to control or minimize stress can be one of the most effective ways to prevent future outbreaks. But, if despite your best efforts, you end up feeling that itchy tingle and you don’t want to resort to prescription antivirals, here are several natural ways to find relief.
Ice—At the first tingle, put ice on your lip for as long as you can stand it. Depending on how quickly you apply the ice, it may prevent the sore from progressing, as viruses can’t survive in extreme cold.
Lysine—Eat such foods as yogurt, milk, cheese, beets, apples, pears, avocado, fish, chicken, and beef that are high in lysine—and relatively low in arginine. You can also take lysine as a supplement; 1,000 mg three times a day should help boost levels. Arginine is an amino acid that blocks absorption of lysine in the body. You’ll want to avoid eating too many foods high in arginine, including chocolate, tree nuts, and sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Lemon Balm—Due to its antiviral properties, lemon balm cream can shorten the duration of a cold sore.
Bee Propolis—Studies show that by applying propolis to a cold sore you can get better results than by using the prescription antiviral drug acyclovir.
Licorice— The active ingredient of the licorice root is glycyrrhiza extract (GX), which has anti-inflammatory properties. Some topical ointments containing GX reduce the pain and healing time of cold sores. Research also suggests that licorice strengthens the immune system and may fight off the virus that causes sores. Capsules containing licorice root extract taken on a daily basis could reduce the possibility of an outbreak.
Aloe Vera—By applying aloe vera ointment to the afflicted area, it can help heal scabs, redness, and tenderness that linger after an outbreak.
By keeping the area clean, and by getting rid of or disinfecting areas that come into contact with the virus (i.e. ditching your toothbrush) you’re more likely to successfully fend off another occurrence. And remember: stressing over a cold sore only makes it worse, so after treating your blister the best thing you can do is forget it exists!
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