Every year at about this time of year, people start to get tired, sick and in need of a holiday. This often manifests as a suppressed immune system, with many falling prey to common colds, flus and infections. For others, a delightful cold sore presents around the mouth. Cold sore sufferers will attest that cold sore blisters are the worst. They’re painful, look terrible and leave many often too embarrassed to venture outside the house. Unfortunately once you have had a cold sore there is no way to remove the herpes simplex I virus (HSV-1) from your system. There is no cure. And whilst using naturopathic principles to heal is always best, when it comes to effectively treating a cold sore outbreak the key lies in using both natural and conventional medicines.
There are many things you can do to reduce the frequency and severity of cold sores, and even more things you can do to stop them from coming up altogether. This is how you do it.
Get organized: the emergency cold sore kit
When you feel the initial tingle of a cold sore, you have a very small window of time to use emergency measures to stop the blister from coming up. It is usually a matter of hours. In saying that, it is totally possible to stop a blister coming up if you are ready to go with the right treatments at hand.
Consider putting together an emergency cold sore kit. Many of my clients like to use little make up bags of toiletry kits (toiletry bags from flights are always great). We will get into how to use the kit soon, but for now just stock up.
What to buy at the Pharmacy for your emergency kit:
Zovirax is an anti-viral cream that can both prevent and heal a blister. Despite what some pharmacist’s may tell you, it is better to buy this specific brand vs the generic ones as it is in an ointment base (which is absorbed far more efficiently into the sub dermal tissue).
- Famvir 500mg (3 tablets – anti-viral oral medicine)
This oral anti-viral has only recently become available over the counter (in the past, it was only prescribed by Doctors for those with genital herpes). This medicine can make a huge impact as to whether a blister comes up or not if it is taken as soon as you feel the tingley feeling on your lip.
These are so great, particularly if the cold sore has already come up. These invisible healing patches act like skin, helping blisters to heal faster but even better, hiding them beautifully.
What to buy at the Health Food shop for your emergency kit:
- Ethical Nutrients Lysine with Astralagus (capsules). If you can’t find this, Herbs of Gold do a good Lysine and Olive leaf supplement as well.
- A high quality Vitamin C powder. If you can order online, it is best to order liposomal vitamin C which isn’t available yet in Australia. The iHerb website is a great one to order from (deliveries usually come in 3 days). Click here to order my favourite Vitamin C product from iHerb.
If you go to a local health food shore instead, a high quality vitamin C powder is usually available over the counter. Brands to look out for include Bioceuticals & Ethical Nutrients.
- A natural lip balm to protect the lips from drying out. Good options include Papaw ointment, or any lip balms containing calendula or lemon balm.
NB: Some products normally available at the health food store are also available at selected pharmacies – so make sure to check their first for them (which will save you a potential trip to the health food store). Also always check to buy a product that doesn’t contain petroleum jelly.
Recognise symptoms that warn you a cold sore wants to come up
Often there are signs and symptoms that go unnoticed that tell you a cold sore is in the making (these is comes before you feel the tingle). Some of these include:
- A worse than usual case of PMS (bigger than normal hormone fluctuations).
- Extreme chocolate, sugar and/or carbohydrate cravings.
- An itchy/ dry/ red lip and/or itchy skin around the mouth, especially in the cold weather, or after wind/ sun exposure.
- An increased need for sleep.
- Feeling run down generally.
- Trauma to the lip can also leave you vulnerable.
Whilst at this point you don’t need to get the emergency kit out, it is a good idea to:
- Stay hydrated.
- Get rest.
- Avoid sugars, alcohol, caffeine and arginine-rich foods (see below).
- Avoid foods rich in arginine: red meat, nuts, lentils, chocolate, orange juice, coconuts, wheat, oats, soy products, seafood and eggs.
- Increase you intake of foods rich in lysine: fruit & vegetables generally (excepting the ones mentioned above), yogurt and parmesan cheese.
- Take 2 lysine capsules with every meal.
- Take 2000mg of the vitamin C supplement after food.
What to do when you feel the tingle
If you had no clue that a cold sore was in the making and you then feel the tingle, it is still possible to stop it from coming up. This is where your pre-prepared emergency kit comes in handy. Here’s what to do:
- Get your emergency kit out.
- Get a big glass of water.
- Put a teaspoon of the vitamin C powder in the water.
- Take the 3 Famvir tablets and 2 Lysine capsules all at once with the vitamin C water.
- Take the Zovirax cream out, and with clean hands and a q- tip gently apply a small amount the to the tingling area.
- Apart from the Famvir (this is a one-off dose), repeat this 2-3x for the day until the tingling stops and you’re convinced a blister is not coming up.
- If there is any sign of a swelling (pre-blister – they tend to look like little pimples), take a Compseed patch out and put it over the affected area.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get adequate rest.
- Avoid sugars, alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid foods rich in arginine (as per above).
- Increase you intake of foods rich in lysine(as per above).
What to do when the blister has already made an appearance
There is still plenty you can do to minimise the time, pain and severity of a cold sore once it has blistered on your lip.
- Follow all of the steps described above.
- Additionally, take out the Dymaclear Rapid Cold Sore relief formula and apply it as directed onto the affected area.
- Put a Compseed patch on top of the blister for faster healing and protection.
Other handy cold sore tips
- If you get cold sores frequently, take 2 capsules of Lysine every day as a preventative measure (especially when eating arginine-rich foods).
- Learn stress management techniques that suit you as an individual. For some this may mean breathing techniques/ meditation, for others this might mean cardiovascular exercise or reading a book. Everyone is different when it comes to stress relief.
- Stay rested.
- Take care of your lips. Never let them get too dry. Use Papaw ointment regularly.
- Wear sunblock when you know your face will be exposed to the sun (and UV rays).
- Keep yours hands clean. Always wash them before touching your face and before contact with another person.
- Never share food and drinks while you have a cold sore. There is a chance you will transmit the virus.
- Avoid kissing while you have a cold sore for the same reason. This includes oral sex, where the virus can be transmitted to then develop as genital herpes.
- Remember that the cold sore is temporary and it’ll be gone in a week. Get on with your life. Despite what you may think those around do not care if you have a cold sore or not. Put a patch on, forget about it and happily get on with your day.