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Small fluid blisters, mostly seen on the corner of lips are known as fever blisters or cold sores. They are often confused with canker sores but while the latter is usually present inside the mouth, cold sores appear over the skin around the mouth; more commonly over lips. They are caused due to HSV 1 infection and are highly contagious.

Cold sores can spread to other body parts such as the nose and sometimes genitalia, though they usually don’t. The best way to differentiate a cold sore is that it is usually associated with symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache, sore throat, swollen glands and dehydration.

According to an estimate, about eighty percent people experience this virus attack at least once in their lifetime.
Cold sores usually start with a tingling and itchy sensation after which the blister appears. Fortunately, it is a self-limiting condition and the blister vanishes itself in approx two weeks without leaving any scar. However, you can certainly hasten the healing process by using some simple non-invasive remedies.

  1. Home remedies for cold sores
  2. Tips for management of cold sores
  3. When to visit a doctor

Cold sores can be really painful and uncomfortable while they last. If the sores are on lips, they also interfere with the daily life of the person by making eating, drinking and speaking difficult. Here are some home remedies that can help you in getting relief from pain and discomfort of fever blisters.

  1. Cold compress for cold sores
  2. Heat therapy for cold sores
  3. Tea tree oil for cold sores
  4. Peppermint oil for cold sores
  5. Green tea bags for cold sores
  6. Aloe Vera gel for cold sores

Cold compress for cold sores

Ice is as effective for cold sores as it is for any other kind of blister. Applying ice on the affected area gives immediate relief from pain and also reduces swelling. Hence a topical application of ice can be a good idea to get symptomatic relief from fever blisters.

What you will require:

  • Ice cubes
  • ​Mirror

Procedure:

  • Take some ice cubes in a clean bowl
  • Stand in front of a mirror
  • Pick up an ice cube in your hand
  • Apply it on the affected area
  • Do this intermittently for a few minutes at least
  • Repeat this three times daily until blister persists

Note:

  • Make sure to clean your hands properly before and after applying ice on the affected area to avoid spreading of infection.
  • Do not keep the ice cube on your skin for long.
  • If a direct application is too much, you can just wrap some ice in a thin piece of cloth and use it as a cold compress. Make sure to either discard the cloth or wash it with an antiseptic solution before using it again. It will keep the infection from spreading.

Heat therapy for cold sores

Increasing temperature or heat therapy is yet another good solution for fever blisters. It helps in reducing the replication efficiency of the herpes simplex virus. If a heat pad warmed at about 50 Degree Celsius is applied on the sore for a few seconds, it can block viral replication completely.
Here is how you can take heat therapy at home:

What you will require:

  • Water
  • Boiler
  • A pan
  • Clean cotton cloth

Procedure:

  • Boil some water in a pan
  • Let it cool down to a bearable temperature
  • Now, soak a clean cotton cloth in this hot water
  • Drain the extra water off and apply the cloth on the affected area
  • Keep it on until it cools down
  • Repeat a few more times
  • Do this three time daily until the fever blister disappears

Note:

Mind the temperature of the water. You can burn your skin if the water is too hot and if it is not that warm, there won't be any effect. So make sure that the temperature of the water is just right to be effective.

Tea tree oil for cold sores

Topical application of tea tree oil has been found to be really effective against various viruses, especially herpes simplex virus. Though for effective results, it is best to use this oil in the early stages of infection that is as soon as the sores appear. Furthermore, tea tree oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. It has an almost immediate effect on the pain and swelling associated with cold sores. Here is how you can use tea tree oil in case of fever or cold sores:

What you will require:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Towel

Procedure:

  • The first and the most important step is to wash your hands properly with a handwash
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel
  • Now, take some tea tree oil on your fingers
  • Apply it on the affected area
  • Leave it on and let it show its effects
  • Repeat this twice daily
  • Wash your hands after completing this procedure to avoid spreading of the infection

Note:

  • Some people can be sensitive to concentrated tea tree oil. In such cases, dilute the oil with any other oil like olive oil or coconut oil before application. You can also do a patch test to check for any reactions
  • It is really important to note that tea tree oil can be dangerous on oral consumption. So try not to consume it and avoid its use when fever sore is near the lip. Also, don’t give it to children.

Peppermint oil for cold sores

Peppermint oil is another essential oil that can be really helpful for cold blisters. It is an extract of  Mentha piperita and has shown great anti-viral potential against the herpes virus. It is especially effective in case of recurrent cold blisters. Moreover, peppermint oil does not have any side effect on the skin. So choosing it can be a good option. Here is how you can use peppermint oil for cold sores treatment.

What you will require:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Handwash
  • Towel

Procedure:

  • Wash your hands properly with a hand wash and dab them dry
  • Now take a few drops of peppermint oil on your fingertips
  • Apply the oil on the affected area
  • Let it sit
  • You don’t have to wash your skin. Essential oils are volatile and they vaporise themselves within a few minutes

Note:

  • Essential oils are highly concentrated preparations and it is always best to dilute them with an appropriate carrier oil before direct application. Just add a few drops of this oil to coconut oil or almond oil to make a 2% solution and you are good to go.
  • You can do a patch test before application of peppermint oil in case you are sensitive to it.
  • It is highly recommended to wash your hand properly before and after application of peppermint oil to avoid spreading of infection.

Green tea bags for cold sores

Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks with loads of antioxidants and medicinal properties. It has also proven to be a brilliant remedy for cold sores. For starters, green tea is a natural antiviral agent. It can efficiently suppress the growth of the herpes virus in skin cells, resolving fever blisters in no time. The bioactive ingredients present in tea leaves have a stimulating effect on the immune system. It also helps reduce inflammation and swelling.
Both consumption and topical application of green tea are equally effective. Here is how you can use green tea as a topical applicant:

What you will require:

  • Green tea bags
  • Water
  • Boiler
  • Clean utensil

Procedure:

  • Take some water in a clean utensil
  • Heat up the water
  • Dip a tea bag in it for few seconds
  • Rinse and apply this tea bag on the affected area

Note:

  • Do not use flavoured or scented tea bags.
  • Wait for the green tea bag to cool down to a bearable temperature before applying it over your skin.
  • If you are not comfortable with tea bags, you can also make a solution of green tea and honey and apply it on the affected area.

Aloe Vera gel for cold sores

Aloe vera gel is one of the best topical remedies for most skin issues including cold sores. The plus point of using aloe vera gel is that it does not lead to skin irritation or side effects. In fact, it has a cooling and soothing effect on the skin, which helps relieve pain and irritation associated with fever blisters.
Studies suggest that this clear gel possesses a significant antiviral property that helps inhibit herpes simplex virus growth. Owing to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is effective in reducing swelling and redness around fever blisters.
A lot of brands have launched their own version of aloe products in the market, including creams and lotions. You can even buy pure aloe gel tubes. However, most of these products have some form of preservatives added in them so it is best to use aloe vera gel extracted at home. Aloe plants don’t really need any upkeep and can thrive well on their own. Here is how you can extract and apply aloe vera gel.

What you will need:

  • Aloe vera leaves
  • Blender
  • Knife or peeler
  • Clean water
  • Container
  • A spoon

Procedure:

  • Take an aloe vera leaf
  • Make some tiny cuts on the leaf and leave it in a bowl for some time.
  • After a while, you will notice yellow sticky liquid oozing out of it. This yellow substance is latex. Let it drain completely
  • Wash the leaf once it stops draining
  • Now, remove its peel using a knife or peeler,
  • You will find transparent aloe vera gel inside
  • Gently, extract this gel into a clean bowl with a knife or you can use a spoon to scoop off the gel
  • Blend the gel properly and store it in a clean airtight container. You can also skip the blending part
  • Aloe gel can last for about a week in the refrigerator without the addition of any preservatives
  •  Apply Vaseline to avoid irritation due to dryness and itching.
  • Avoid intake of too much alcohol (Read more: Effects of alcohol on body)
  • Do not touch your fever blister. It can lead to the spreading of the virus to other parts of your body
  • Wash your hands regularly and maintain proper hygiene
  • Take immediate actions soon as you start to feel a tickling sensation so as to prevent cold sores altogether
  • Do not cover the blister with makeup as the chemicals in it can create irritation and itching

Visiting a doctor is not usually required in case of cold sore or fever blister. But, in some situation, the case can become severe and hence you may need to visit a medical expert. Here are some situations you should not take easy and visit a doctor immediately:

  • In case, the fever blister does not heal even after two weeks.
  • If you get fever blisters very frequently
  • If pain is too much
  • In case of high fever and vomiting
  • If cold sore occurs in children especially infants
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References

  1. Healthdirect Australia. Cold sores. Australian government: Department of Health
  2. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Cold sores
  3. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Cold sores
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  6. Schuhmacher A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro.. 2003;10(6-7):504-10.PMID: 13678235.
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  9. Saeed Samarghandian, Tahereh Farkhondeh and Fariborz Samini. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. 2017 Apr-Jun; 9(2): 121–127. PMID: 28539734.
  10. Aline de Oliveira, Sandra D. Adams, Lee H. Lee, Sean R. Murray, Stephen D, Jeffrey R. Hammond, Douglas Dickinson, Ping Chen, and Tin-Chun Chua. Inhibition of Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 with the modified green tea polyphenol palmitoyl-epigallocatechin gallate. 2012 Nov 23. PMID: 23182741.
  11. Fahimeh Rezazadeh, Maryam Moshaverinia, Mohammad Motamedifar and Montazer Alyaseri. Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In Vitro Study. 2016 Mar; 17(1): 49–54.PMID: 26966709.