The herpes simplex virus is the causative agent of Cold Sores which are unsightly blisters around the lips and mouth.
The herpes simplex virus is typically self limiting and the sores usually resolve naturally within 2 to 3 weeks. However the virus remains within the body and a range of factors can cause reactivation of the virus at any time leading to a new outbreak.
Some of the trigger factors may include, fatigue, stress, physical injury to the lips (like chapping), over exposure to sunlight, pregnancy and problems with the immune system.
The herpes simplex virus is contagious and can be passed from person to person on contact. It has been estimated that up to 80% of the world’s population has been exposed to the cold sore virus. But only a small percentage show physical symptoms and blisters.
Usually Herpes Simplex Type 1 causes cold sores whilst Type 2 is associated with genital herpes.
Prior to a break out of cold sores you may have tingling or pain in the affected area for two or three days and this pain preceding an outbreak is referred to as the prodrome. Treatment at this stage can prove more effective than once the blister has appeared.
To avoid spreading cold sores when they are present, ensure your hands are washed regularly, avoid sharing towels and eating utensils and avoid direct contact with the blister itself.
Over the counter treatments generally include lidocaine (for pain relief) and benzyl alcohol and these treat the symptoms of cold sores and in very severe cases anti-viral treatments may be prescribed by your Doctor.
In addition to over the counter and doctor prescribed treatments there are natural treatments including lysine (ointments and supplements), lemon balm and reishi mushrooms, the astragalus herb and propolis.