Cold sores are caused by a variation of the herpes simplex virus (HSV – 1)  for which there is no cure. If you suffer from an outbreak, please note that you are not alone. A study conducted by the University of Maryland suggests that about 62% of Americans are infected with HSV – 1 by the time they hit puberty and that about 85% of Americans will suffer from the disease at least once by the time they reach their 60s.
An onset of cold sores is extremely painful, not to mention that with time they get bigger and look pretty awkward as well on the nose, cheeks, lips and the chin. They appear as tiny fluid-filled blisters that form around your lips and if they break, it leads to the formation of an almost hideous crust. If your cold sores break, you become vulnerable to secondary infections as well!
Although having to suffer from this disease may make the process seem insufferable at times, it does not mean that you will have to always resort to a prescription skin cream and learn to live with the associated side effects forever.  There are several home remedies available that will help ease the symptoms.
- Rubbing Alcohol: Take a 70% solution of rubbing alcohol that you can probably find at your local drug store and apply that to your cold sores via a cotton pad or a Q Tip. Let it dry naturally. Rubbing alcohol is a drying agent,  which will help get rid of the fluids that are there inside the blisters, thus easing the symptoms quickly. As it is also a highly potent disinfectant  it significantly reduces the chances of secondary infections.
- Licorice: Licorice root contains glycyrrhizic acid,  which has strong antiviral  and antibacterial  properties. A topical treatment with licorice can not only relieve cold sore symptoms but can also prevent secondary infection. It also has anti-inflammatory properties,  which can help soothe the pain. To create a topical cream you need to mix licorice root and water in a 2:1 ration (1 tablespoon of licorice root powder with ½ tablespoon of fresh water should do the trick). You can adjust the ratio of water to licorice to adjust the consistency of your cream. Some may even choose to replace water with petroleum jelly (which is a natural cure for cold sores in its own right – we will discuss that later) to make a more potent concoction. Just apply a thin layer on your cold sores and leave it overnight!
- Petroleum Jelly: Petroleum jelly is a natural moisturizer that soothes and softens the skin that is being afflicted by cold sores. It also forms a protective layer on these pustules, thus preventing secondary bacterial infections that can make the condition more severe than it actually is! Just take a generous quantity of petroleum jelly and apply it gently on the cold sore outbreak using a Q-Tip or a cotton swab!
- Tea Tree Oil: Also known as melaleuca oil,  tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial,  antifungal  and antiviral  solution and is a natural cure for a wide variety of topical skin afflictions, including cold sores. It works the same way rubbing alcohol does, except that tea tree oil also has anti-inflammatory properties , which helps ease the pain. Just apply it the same way you would apply rubbing alcohol and you should see a visible improvement within 24 hours!
- Whole Milk: Whole milk contains immunoglobulins  which can stave off a viral infection.  Just take some whole milk and dip a cotton ball into it and apply the milk to the affected area. Now take a different bud to wipe off the extra milk and use petroleum jelly to apply a protective layer. Do this at least once every day, preferable before you go to bed!
- Tea bags: Black, green or white tea are rich in tannins,    which has natural antiviral properties.  Take the tea bag after you have prepared your tea. Keep in a separate container for a few minutes to ensure that it is cold, or at least at room temperature because an inordinate amount of heat will actually cause you more harm than good. Now take this tea bag and hold it against the cold sore for at least five minutes!
- Pure Vanilla Extract: There are two main reasons why vanilla extract may be a useful remedy for your cold sore. FDA approved pure vanilla extract contains 35% alcohol by volume,  which will help treat your cold sores the exact same way that rubbing alcohol would. It also has anti-inflammatory properties  that can lower the pain. Just soak a cotton ball or pad with the vanilla extract and hold it against the affected area for a couple of minutes. Feel free to repeat the process at least four times each day.
- Witch hazel: Witch hazel is an extremely strong astringent that can help you dry out your cold sore. Some people may be allergic to it, hence before you apply it to your cold sore apply a small amount on an unaffected area of your skin to test your tolerance. If you do not feel an uncomfortable sensation on this area then feel free to apply this to your cold sore with a cotton ball or pad for up to two times every day!
- Sea Salt: Sea salt is highly recommended if you have any cold sores on the inside of your mouth. This is because there is anecdotal evidence of sea salt being an astringent and a disinfectant. To prepare this treatment, take about 8 oz. of water and mix one tablespoon of sea salt in it. Swish it around the insides of your mouth at least twice a day!
- Fox external cold sores, you can apply the aforementioned solution with a cotton ball or a pad, or you may apply the salt directly on the infection. Please make sure that you clean your hands thoroughly (to prevent additional infection) and apply it gently (if the sores break then the stinging sensation may become unbearably painful). You can apply this treatment at least twice a day!
- Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil is yet another natural antiviral  and antibacterial  medication, which can be used to treat your cold sores. Do not apply peppermint oil directly on the infection as it may prove to be highly irritating, so you should dilute it with a bit of water. A simple 1:1 ratio of peppermint oil and water should be fine. For best results, apply the diluted peppermint oil to the affected area with a cotton ball or pad at least twice a day.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant  that can prevent your cold sores from being afflicted by secondary infections, thus allowing it to heal faster in the long run. Soak a cotton ball or a pad in hydrogen peroxide and hold it against the infected area for at least five minutes. Brace yourself before applying this as it is going to sting! Rinse the afflicted area with some cold water and then apply some petroleum jelly to ease the pain!
- Echinacea tea: Echinacea tea is known to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and it can boost your immune system as well!  Although there haven’t been any formal studies that establishes Echinacea tea as an effective cold sores treatment, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it does help treat the affliction. The medicinal properties of this herb seems to back up the claim. To find out whether this treatment is going to work for you or not, take an Echinacea tea bag into a mug and pour boiling water into it. Cover the mug and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Take the tea bag out, squeeze all of the liquid from the bag into the mug and then drink it!
- Vitamins E: Vitamin E is proven to have anti-inflammatory properties  that can help ease the pain associated with cold sores. One can topically apply it by applying various nut oils or by ingesting foods that are rich in Vitamin E such as whole grains, avocados and leafy green vegetables.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C boosts the count of our white blood cells  which helps stave off infections like cold sores. There are several foods that are rich in Vitamin C, such as tomatoes, oranges, red berries, spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit etc.
- Zinc lozenges: Just like Vitamin C, zinc also provides a necessary boost to the immunity.  On top of that it is also known to reduce stress,  which can help prevent a future onset of this disease.
- Cornstarch: It is common knowledge that the HSV – 1 virus that causes cold sores need an acidic environment to thrive. If we can change the pH level of the afflicted area into an alkaline environment, it may get rid of the infection and push the virus back into a state of dormancy. You can achieve that with the help of a simple paste made out of cornstarch. Take a tablespoon of cornstarch and add about 1 tablespoon of water into it. A little more water may be required to create a paste like consistency and you should use your judgment to create the ideal texture for the paste. Apply it before you go to bed and rinse it off when you wake up!
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is yet another ingredient that can help you deal with the pain and irritation that accompanies an outbreak of oral herpes. Aloe has anti-inflammatory  and antibacterial  properties that helps ease the pain and protects the afflicted area from secondary infections. If possible, you should try to procure the natural aloe gel by slicing open aloe leaves. However if that is not an option, then you can always purchase a jar of aloe from your local drugstore.
- Ice cubes: The pain is truly the worst part of having to deal with cold sores. Another way by which you can bring it under control is by using ice packs or cubes. Just hold the ice cubes or the ice pack against the infected area for as long as you possibly can, dab the water off gently and then apply a bit of petroleum jelly to lock the moisture in and to save the area from secondary infections.
All of the above treatments are going to eventually alleviate the symptoms, but that does not take away the fact that an onset of cold sores is a highly painful and irritating affair. You need to take the following precautions to ensure that a future outbreak can be staved off for as long as possible and also minimize the chances of infecting others:
- Quarantine yourself: Make sure that no one uses any of your things that may come in touch with the infected area such as utensils, towels and toiletries.
- Do not touch: This will probably test your resolve but you should not touch your cold sores unless you are applying any of the aforementioned treatments. Herpes simplex is a highly contagious virus and not only can you infect someone else who comes in close physical proximity with you, you may even spread the infection to a different part of your own body!
- Keep washing your hands: You will probably end up touching the infected area, either to apply any of the aforementioned treatments or because you could not resist the temptation. Wash your hands periodically with a strong anti-bacterial soap to minimize the chances of infecting others!
- Get rid of your toiletries after the infection: Once the infection subsides, dispose of anything that may have come in contacted with the infected area. This could me your toothbrush, your lip balm, your hand-towel or anything else that you can think of.
- Protect your skin from the sun at all times: Use a high SPF sunscreen and cover every inch of your body with it, including your lips. Being exposed to the UV rays of the sun may lead to a recurrence of herpes simplex  hence using a heavy duty sunscreen can help reduce the chances of an onset.
- Look into any purported home remedies: Independent research is suggested before you apply any purported home remedies and please do not believe everything you read on the internet. While researching for this guide, we came across a website that suggested toothpaste as an effective cure for cold sores. However, this could not be further from the truth as several doctors believe that using toothpaste on your cold sore can actually make it worse!
Following the above suggestions should not only help you recover from your outbreaks really fast but may also help delay the next possible outbreak. However, if you are currently suffering from cold sores and you have been trying any of the above treatments for at least 2 weeks without any visible improvements, then we would suggest that you get in touch with a qualified medical professional.
How Long do Cold Sores Last?
Also known as canker sore and fever blisters, cold sores are swollen and painful. A good number of people who get infected with HSV often don’t develop any painful symptoms. Having cold sore usually makes it hard to smile, talk or eat. Cold sores remain painful for 7 to 10 days. Mild to minor cold sores go away completely in 7 to 21 days, but more severe occurrences of can take up to 6 weeks to clear up.
How Avoid the Spread?
The HSV virus is very contagious and can spread from one person to another through sharing of personal hygiene products like razors, shaving brushes, tooth brushes, towels. Activities like eating in same utensils, oral sex and kissing are also a way the virus spreads. The virus often lies dormant in the body until it’s triggered by stress or hormonal changes at a later date.