Cold Sores and Herpes Simplex Background Information
Cold sores, otherwise known as oral herpes or “herpes labialis”, are the most common form of infection by the herpes simplex virus in the world. Genital herpes is the second most common. Regrettably, there is no known cure for the herpes virus so once you’ve been infected with it you’re stuck with it for life. However, there are some vaccines currently in the works by researchers that may soon allow people to be vaccinated against herpes.
Oral herpes is usually transmitted when there are visible sores on the individual’s face, however the period immediately before and after (of about plus and minus a week) a cold sore emerges is a stage during which the person is asymptomatically (without symptoms) shedding the virus and is therefore capable of infecting other people even though there are no outward signs of the disease.
Cold sores cycle through periods of active and dormant periods with the active periods lasting 2-21 days when there are blisters on the skin containing infectious virus particles, followed by a remission period–this is the phase that the virus is in the great majority of the time. During the dormant period the virus resides only in sensory nerve cells in its latent form where it will stay for the rest of the infected person’s life. Over time the frequency of cold sore outbreaks will decrease due to your immune system adapting to the virus and building up an immunity to it; the duration and severity of the cold sores you get will also slowly decrease due to this.
Frequency of asymptomatic shedding has no correlation with frequency of symptomatic outbreaks: this means that the frequency with which you suffer visible outbreaks has no bearing on how often you are asymptomatically shedding.
Diagnosis–Sometimes a Cold Sore Isn’t a Cold Sore
Orofacial herpes infection is typically determined by clinical examination where the most common symptoms are multiple round superficial ulcers accompanied by acute gingivitis. Cases non-typical in appearance are more difficult to diagnose and an examiner will typically refer to what are known as “prodromal” symptoms–that is, symptoms that will typically occur prior to the onset of the disease–to differentiate HSV infection from other conditions with similar symptoms. For example, cold sores are often mistaken for canker sores and vice-versa, but they have distinctly different prodromal symptoms. The best way to distinguish cold sores from canker sores is that cold sores almost always occur outside the mouth whereas canker sores are always completely inside the mouth.
How To Heal a Cold Sore in Under 48 Hours
Ok, here’s my own personal procedure that I perform every time that I get a cold sore. I’ve developed this over years of trial and error and hope it works as well for you as it does for me:
1. Take a needle and sterilize it with rubbing alcohol, pop the cold sore, and drain all the fluid out, soaking it up with a kleenex or paper towel. This is just like what you would do to a zit in high school. You really don’t want any of that nasty yellow fluid at all.
2. Wash the cold sore with a damp cloth and some soap and warm water once every two hours or so. You want to keep the affected area as clean and dry as possible.
3. Ice the area once every two hours for about 10 minutes with an ice cube after you’ve washed it. This will not only reduce the itching and pain but it will also lessen the severity of the outbreak because it slows down the virus.
4. Apply some Benzyl alcohol (“Zilactin”) to the area with a q-tip once every two hours after the ice, this is one of the few home remedies recommended and endorsed by the Mayo Clinic (source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-sore/DS00358/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs ). This will probably do more to help you heal that cold sore fast than anything else I’ve ever tried, this stuff is awesome.
5. Start taking lysine (aka “l-lysine”) at 1000mg 3 times per day–this has been effectively shown in multiple scientific studies to not only reduce the healing time and severity of a cold sore outbreak but to also help prevent cold sores and reduce the frequency of outbreaks throughout the year if taken as a preventative measure at a lower dosage (I recommend 500mg once a day as a preventative treatment). (Source: National Institute of Health, to see the full study go here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3115841 )