Cold sores are one of mother nature’s cruelest curses–they’re itchy, sometimes painful, and worst of all they cramp our social life, very severely so for some people (I know of people who simply will not leave the house at all if they have a cold sore, I mean they call in sick to work, have their spouse do all the shopping and errands, the whole nine yards).
If you’ve got a cold sore then, as you probably already know, you’re infected with the herpes simplex virus, most likely the type 1 strain (although type 2 is also capable of causing cold sores, even though it’s much less common), and you can never be completely rid of the virus, regrettably. I will say, though, that right now there’s a couple of very promising advances being made in the area of herpes vaccines–scientists have been trying for the better part of 60 years to come up with a vaccine to immunize people against the herpes virus and hopefully put an end to it for once and all like we’ve done with so many other diseases with the help of vaccines such as rabies and polo. Right now there have been two vaccines developed for HSV (herpes simplex virus), one is for treating what’s known as “shingles” (which is caused by HSV and technically known as “herpes zoster”) and is called “Zostavax”. The other vaccine, called “Herpevac”, is currently in Phase 3 trials with the National Institute of Health and is specifically designed to prevent genital herpes by immunizing women (the vaccine doesn’t work on men for some reason) against the HSV-2 strain (herpes simplex type 2). You can get more information on that by seeing the NIH website here: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/stds/herpevac/
A simple 5-step at-home procedure that I recommend to my patients for getting rid of a cold sore, and that can reduce the duration of an outbreak by up to 75%, is as follows (I must also note at this point that I do recommend that you get some anti-virals such as from your doctor, they will help, but that’s up to you):
1. Ice the cold sore once every 2 hours for 10 minutes, this will help reduce the pain and itching significantly, plus it also slows down the replication rate of the virus by slowing its metabolism which, consequently, will lessen the severity of the cold sore by the simple mechanism of reducing the number of virus particles present.
2. Keep the cold sore clean and dry by washing it once every two hours with a damp washcloth and soap, do this right after you ice it. Use a new washcloth each time you do this for sanitary purposes.
3. Apply benzyl alcohol (brand name “Zilactin”) to the cold sore with a q-tip each time after you wash it. Isopropyl alcohol may be substituted if you can’t find any benzyl alcohol.
4. Lastly, apply some nail polish remover to it with a new q-tip. This will keep the sore very dry and soak up all the fluid it may seep over the next 2 hours until you can wash it again.
5. Start taking L-lysine at a dosage of 1000mg 3 times per day–this is a simple over-the-counter supplement that can be found at your local drug store or GNC (or similar store). Lysine has been proven in multiple scientific studies to help in the treatment and prevention of cold sores (Source: Indiana University School of Medicine Study, go here to see it: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3115841 ). A quick note from that study concerning the prevention of cold sores that may interest you:
“The treatment group was given L-Lysine monohydrochloride tablets (1,000 mg L-lysine per dose) 3 times a day for 6 months. A total of 27 (6 male and 21 female) subjects on L-lysine and 25 (6 male and 19 female) subjects on placebo completed the trial. The L-lysine treatment group had an average of 2.4 (p less than 0.05) less HSV infections, symptoms were significantly (p less than 0.05) diminished in severity and healing time was significantly reduced (p less than 0.05). L-Lysine appears to be an effective agent for reduction of occurrence, severity and healing time for recurrent HSV infection.”