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Recurrent Cold Sores (Herpes Labialis)

Cold Sore FAQ

How common are cold sores?

Research has shown that up to 80% of Americans have been exposed to and up to 33% have routine outbreaks of Recurrent Herpes Labialis, also known as “cold sores.”

What are colde sores?

Cold sores are a virus that remains dormant or inactive with in nerve ganglia (tissue) and becomes activated by certain triggers. Outbreaks tend to last around two weeks, can be painful, and are often temporarily disfiguring.

How can I prevent cold sores?

Cold sores are a virus that is transmitted by direct contact during an outbreak. It is important to avoid sharing drinks, food, lip balm, or kissing infected individuals during an outbreak. If you have an active cold sore, it is vital to take measures to prevent passing the virus to others. Keep in mind, it is possible to acquire or transmit the virus when an outbreak is not present.

Knowing what triggers an outbreak will help reduce their frequency. Consider making a log of your activities prior to an infection each time you have an outbreak. In doing so, you may find some causes that are more likely to induce an outbreak than others:

Cold Sore Causes

In order to understand how to properly manage a cold sore outbreak, the cycle of the virus must be understood. This virus may remain latent (inactive) for an indefinite amount of time and suddenly appear. Often the initial infection is sub-clinical and goes unnoticed however the severity often increases during future occurrences:

What are the Stages of a Cold Sore:

Cold Sore Stages

How can you treat cold sores?

There is no known cure for cold sores, however, there are many prescription and over-the-coutner products that may help decrease the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

  • Laser therapy: Low level laser therapy requires no anesthetic, has no discomfort and has shown to dramatically decrease duration, severity and pain during breakouts.
  • Prescriptions: Zorivax (Acyclovir) Oral: 200 mg – 2 tablets 3x daily for 7 days; Zorivax 5% (Acyclovir): apply ointment 5x daily for 4 days; Valtrex (Valacyclovir): 500mg – 2 caplets 3x daily for 7 days; Denavir 1% (Penciclovir) 2gm: apply every 2 hours for 4 days; Valtrex Labialis: 2g – 1 caplet 12 hours apart for 1 day only. Do not exceed 1 day!
  • Over-the-counter (OTC): Abreva (Docosonal): 2 gm – apply to affected area at first sign, 5x daily Zilactin (medicated gel): apply to affected area at first sign and then every 6 hours; Lipactin (zinc + heparin): apply to affected area 3-6x daily; Viroxyn (benzalkonium chloride): apply vigorously at beginning of breakout; Supplements: 50mg zinc (1x day), 500mg Lysine (6 daily); Nutritional Supplements: Herpetrol tablets, Vir-L0Lysine
  • Household Remedies (in addition to prescription and OTC products):Wear at least SPF 30 lip balm during any sun exposure; Apply lemon balm to initial blister may prevent virus from taking permanent hold in nerve ganglia; Apply ice during prodromal stage at 5 minute intervals to help prevent spread of the virus; Q-tip application of red wine for ten minute intervals every 4 hours can prevent spread of the virus while eating

Remember it is extremely important to consult your dentist and/or physician before trying any of the OTC products.

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