Cold sores are a frequent problem for many Canadians. In fact, around 20% of all Canadians experience a cold sore at least once per year. While cold sores are almost never a threat to your health, they can certainly be painful, frustrating, and embarrassing. Here are some interesting facts about cold sores, along with treatment strategies that can help you deal with the problem.
What is a Cold Sore?
Also called fever blisters, cold sores are ulcerations that appear on the external portion of the lips. They typically disappear on their own, but they can be painful and unsightly in the meantime. Cold sores are usually painful to the touch and can be quite annoying when eating, especially when consuming cold, hot, spicy, salty, or acidic items.
The herpes simplex virus is the cause of cold sores. Technically, cold sores are called herpes simplex labialis and are distinct from genital herpes. Since the problem is viral instead of bacterial, antibiotics will not help in cold sore treatment. Also, the viral nature of cold sores means that the condition is highly contagious. The virus can be transmitted by kissing, other types of physical contact, and sharing towels, handkerchiefs, or washcloths.
Treatment for Cold Sores
There are several over-the-counter products that can greatly help in controlling and reducing cold sore symptoms. These products include topical treatments like balms, gels, creams, and ointments that speed the healing process and numb the discomfort from a cold sore. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications that spread throughout your system and help destroy the virus that causes cold sores.
A cold sore should start to clear up within eight days of onset. If you have a cold sore that persists longer, it may be time to seek professional help. You can tell a cold sore is healing because it will begin to “dry up” and crust over. While your primary doctor or a dermatologist can be a great resource, you may be surprised to know that you can also turn to your dentist for cold sore help.
Your dentist can provide valuable advice on cold sore treatment strategies. Some dentists even have access to advanced cold sore treatments, such as low-energy lasers, that eliminate the source of the problem, the herpes simplex virus itself. If you suffer from frequent or long-lasting cold sores, give your dentist a call or bring up the problem at your next visit.