Like about 70-80% of the population, I was lucky enough to catch the HSV1 Virus (also known as the Cold Sore virus) as a little kid. The HSV1 virus is so easily passed on from one person to another, with most times it coming from a parent who kissed their little baby without knowing the virus was active in them! SO many of my clients get Cold Sores too and those who get them know how painful, uncomfortable, annoying and unsightly they can be!

Here are some facts about Cold Sores:

  • 70-80% of adults have been exposed to the cold sore virus (HSV1) at some time in their life. But not everyone gets actual Cold Sores.
  • Approximately 30% of people have recurring cold sore symptoms.
  • Cold sores are NOT something that you get from being dirty, careless or going through puberty – they are caused by a widespread virus that is as easy to catch as the flu.
  • Once you catch a cold sore, the virus resides inside the body permanently (just like every other virus) and for some people this can mean that a cold sore may pop up from time to time.
  • The virus lays dormant in the Central Nervous System (spine) and when stimulated travels to the nerve endings (usually around the nose and mouth but can also be in the eyes and genital areas).
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Genital Herpes, is caused by HSV2 virus and not to be confused with HSV1. Although some unlucky people with the Cold Sore virus can still get outbreaks in Genital areas despite not having an STD.
  • The rate of cold sore symptoms coming back is typically once every three months, or four times a year. However many people never experience symptoms (or very rarely) and some people experience them more regularly than this.
  • It can take a few days for a cold sore to develop when you first stimulate the virus. Usually between 2 to 20 days after contact or after it has been stimulated.

What Triggers Cold Sores?

Everyone has different triggers but the most common ones are:

  • Simple things like cold wind, heat, the sun and rough contact on the lip can trigger the virus to come out of hiding.
  • Eating too much food that contains high amounts of Arginine – Chocolate, all Nuts, Seeds, grains, Oats, Turkey and pre-workout supplement powders.
  • Feeling “Run-Down”
  • Fatigue
  • High Stress periods
  • When fighting off illness or infection

So you can feel a Cold Sore coming on? What do you do?

Prevention is your best bet – know your triggers and avoid them when you can. However as good as you are at this, occasionally they can sneak up on you when you are unprepared.

When you feel the first stages of a Cold Sore coming on – which is usually some kind of Burning, Tingling and buzzing sensation on your lip, you must act quick:

  • ICE – Put Ice in a wet tea towel or paper towel and hold over the affected area for as long as you can and as often as you can. Ice will help to “freeze” the virus in it’s tracks and this can mean the difference between a large break out or a small one.
  • L-LYSINE – you should take 500mg – 1g Lysine daily to prevent Cold Sores if you are very prone to them. However once you feel the start of a Cold Sore coming on, take 2g morning, lunch and dinner (can get Powder or Tablets) but only for the first few days of the infection. After 2 days drop down to 2g per day only *These doses are for a standard Adult and NOT children.
  • ZINC & VITAMIN C – I would aim to get a powder with these two combined in it (one with Bioflavonoids helps the inflammation even more so!) and take decent doses of it – I take 1 teaspoon 2 to 3 times per day.
  • KEEP IT WET – There is much debate on this but I find that Cold Sores are not good if they dry out. They can crack and if they bleed then you have no hopes of being able to hide that sucker at all! The blood can dry under the scab and makes it very visible.
  • TOPICAL – Keep applying something soothing and invisible like Paw Paw Ointment in the day. I use a nappy rash cream at night (one that contains minimal ingredients but has zinc and is thick and very moisturising). You can use something like Zovirax cream or a natural herbal antiviral cream that contains herbs to help with the virus and healing (such as St Johns Wort, Gotu Kola, Calendula or Olive Leaf). These only work in the early stages as this also helps slow the virus spreading to other tissues but once the tingling stops, switch to more healing creams like the ones listed above.
  • ANTIVIRAL HERBS – Antiviral and Immune strengthening herbs such as Olive Leaf, Echinacea and Andrographis work wonders internally (especially if you are run down at the time). NOTE: Do not take olive leaf at the same time as Lysine – best to separate them out and take them at least 30 minutes apart or separated by food.
  • AVOID THE ELEMENTS – Avoid the weather elements – wind, heat, extreme temp changes and also anything that might aggravate it – lip biting, licking your lips, facial scrubs, kissing (because everyone wants to kiss someone with a Cold Sore!)
  • LET IT HEAL – So many people want to scrub off or pick at the scab whilst it is healing. But this will prolong healing and just make a new scab form (and maybe even bleed!) Leave everything as it is – just apply the healing creams and lip balms and then towards the end of the week you can start to see if the top layer will come off in the shower. But don’t go pulling at it or trying to wash it too often!
  • OPTIONAL OVER THE COUNTER SUPPORT – You can pop in to see your Pharmacist about the Antiviral medication, Famciclovir, as they now offer a 3 tablet acute script that you can take to stop the virus in it’s tracks. The only issue is that unless you get the tablets on day 1, you have missed the boat. Using the Ice trick until you get to the Chemist can help delay things but it isn’t likely to stop the virus from coming at all but can reduce symptoms. If you are finding yourself using this treatment every few months, you would be must better off taking L-Lysine on a semi-regular basis (something like 3 or 4 times per week) as a preventative.

Hope this helps some people get back on track faster and make this really annoying and painful experience as short as possible!

Monique Kelly Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist