Cold sores on lips can result in pain and discomfort. They are caused by a contagious virus and can be spread to others, so treating cold sores is crucial. There are a variety of remedies for cold sores that are available over the counter. Cold sore ointment and cream catalyze healing and reduce pain using antiseptic and anesthetic ingredients. Some treatments, like Orajel for cold sores and Abreva, can work in just a few days. You can also try a product formulated with the amino acid lysine for cold sores.
There are a number of factors that can trigger cold sores, including cold weather and bitter wind. Keeping your lips hydrated may help. Moisturizing lip balms that contain cold sore medication can soothe your skin and promote healing. If you are worried about people noticing the blemish, cold sore patches and bandages are made from semi-transparent hydrocolloid that gently adheres to the skin, hiding the cold sore and protecting it from bacteria and other contaminants. These bandages also allow for the application of lip makeup to further conceal the cold sore. Makeup should never be applied directly to a cold sore.
Cold sores are caused by a contagious virus called herpes. Type 1 of this virus, called herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), typically causes cold sores while Type 2 (HSV-2) is most often responsible for causing genital herpes. However, both strains can affect the mouth and genital area.
Cold sores appear as small groups of blisters, usually on the lips or around the edges of the mouth. The surrounding skin may look red or swollen, and may feel sore or even painful. The blisters may break open and ooze a clear fluid. After a few days, the oozing sores will scab over and eventually disappear. If you are unsure if what you are observing is a cold sore or if this is the first time you have developed cold sores, it is best to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will most likely be able to diagnose your cold sores on sight, although in some cases your doctor may want to swab the area to test first.
Cold sores are at their most contagious when oozing blisters are visible. However, once you are infected with the virus, it lies dormant in your system, and so it is possible to transmit the virus to another person even when you don’t have visible sores. The virus that causes cold sores can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact or by contact with saliva that is infected with the virus. Common ways the virus may spread include: sharing utensils, razors, towels, and other personal care products, as well as kissing and oral sex.
How to treat cold sores depends on the individual. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat your cold sores. For most people, the sores will go away on their own within a few weeks, so there is nothing you need to do to get rid of them. However, some over the counter medications may help reduce your discomfort and may help lessen the time that it takes for the cold sores to go away. Applying a cold sore ointment that contains docosanol may help cold sores to go away faster. One popular option is Abreva, an FDA-approved cold sore treatment that contains docosanol. Cold sore cream that contains a drying agent, such as alcohol, may also help to speed up healing. If your primary concern is discomfort, look for a cold sore ointment that is formulated with a numbing agent like lidocaine or benzocaine, such as Orajel. If you have just developed a cold sore for the first time, have cold sores that reoccur very often, or have cold sores that last for a very long time, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options.