So you have a big cold eye that lurks on your lips and you want to get rid of it quickly. We got it – it’s extremely tempting to run CVS to pick one of those creams that wants to clear everything. But, at most, they mask a little pain as the sores heal. And in the worst case, they will do absolutely nothing (and cost a little). It turns out that there is only one way to control sores forever.
But before you get there, let’s go back for just a second to talk about why you get these things first: cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, which comes in two varieties. Oral herpes, which usually causes sores around the mouth, is often the result of HSV-1. Genital herpes, which causes sores in much more sensitive areas of your body, is usually thanks to HSV-2. However, both types of virus can cause sores in either of the two locations. So knowing what type you have is not always useful.
For both herpes strains, the only proven treatment available is antiviral drugs, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex). Depending on the severity and frequency of your outbreaks of pain, your doctor may suggest that you be treated only when those outbreaks occur or that you take the medication every day. These medications can make your outbreaks less severe and make them go away much faster. For some people, antiviral treatment also causes them to have fewer outbreaks.
But is there anything else you can do to make those sores go away? Despite what the endless over-the-counter options may have to believe, not really. You almost have to wait out – which could take as long as a few weeks. There are topical antiviral drugs (eg Zovirax and Abreva), but Tosin Goje, MD, an Ob / Gyn specializing in gynecological infectious diseases at the Cleveland Clinic, says he discourages his patients from using them because they do not do much. “Patients are spending money to buy something that has minimal effects,” he says.
Creams and gels containing painkillers (eg, Orajel) can make sores more tolerable as you count the days: so if your pain is really unbearable, your doctor may prescribe or direct you to an appropriate cream to relieve pain. But it’s usually best to stick with your antivirals and your home remedies (like a cold pack) than wagering on an OTC cream.
There are some things you can do to make shoots less likely to arise, though. Mainly that means treating or avoiding your triggers, which may include having chapped lips, going on a tanning bed, having a cold, and our good friend stress. Under normal circumstances, your body (possibly with the help of antiviral drugs) can keep things under control, but all these triggers make it harder for your immune system to do its job.
Remember, it is estimated that up to 80% of the adult population in the United States has been exposed to HSV-1. So, if you end up with a cold sore, rest assured that most of us know and understand what is happening. And while there is no doubt about having that sore is not exactly the funniest she could have, it will.