Despite extensive research scientists are yet to discover a cure for the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), the virus that causes those nasty little cold sores or fever blisters as they are commonly known.
For those that suffer with this year-round problem, winter is often when outbreaks occur. Simply because the virus lies dormant in the body waiting for the immune system to be weak from fighting something like a cold or flu before it strikes (hence the name “Cold Sore”).
Here are some facts to help you understand the nuisance that is cold sores and what you can do to arm your body against attacks.
What exactly are cold sores?
Mayo Clinic defines cold sores as tiny, fluid-filled lesions that occur on and around your lips.
These blisters are grouped together in patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms over the resulting sore.
Most cold sores are caused by the type 1 HSV strain (HSV-1). The type 2 HSV strain (HSV-2) usually causes genital herpes but very occasionally can cause cold sores around the mouth.
Cold sores are generally passed on from person to person via saliva through things like kissing or direct contact with the blister or even drinking from the same glass.
The primary infection may be followed by recurrent episodes in the same area, reactivated by triggers such as stress, fatigue, bacterial infection, fever, sun exposure, menstruation and immunosuppression.
Signs and Symptoms
Some people who get the virus have no symptoms but signs or symptoms of infection can include:
- Tingling, itching, or burning: Before the blisters appear, the skin may tingle, itch, or burn for a day or so.
- Sores: One or more painful, fluid-filled blisters may appear. Blisters break open and often ooze fluid and form a crust, before healing. The sores can last from 8 to 10 days.
- Flu-like symptoms. Fever, muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck for oral herpes and the groin for genital herpes are possible.
For oral herpes most blisters appear on the lips or around the mouth and sometimes on the face or tongue. Although these are the most common places to find oral herpes, the sores can appear anywhere on the skin.
Cold sores generally go through a few stages before the healing process is complete:
- The tingling stage
- The blister stage
- The weeping stage- the most infectious stage
- The scabbing stage
- The healing stage
On average the sores usually crust or scab within 4 days and heal completely in 8-10 days. However the herpes virus remains dormant in the facial nerves, periodically recurring in response to those various triggers.
The frequency and severity of outbreaks generally decreases over time, but can be more than 12 times a year in severe cases.
So how can you arm your body against an attack?
Managing stress, getting adequate sleep, regular exercise and eating a good balanced diet will help keep your immune system functioning optimally and reduce the risk of attacks.
- Avoid exposure to the sunlight especially between 11.00am and 3.00pm, and if you are in the sun, wear a hat and use sunscreen on your face and lips.
- Use a lip balm with a high SPF factor regularly, such as Lipsano.
- Increase your Lysine intake.
Lysine is an amino acid that is not manufactured by our bodies and so we need to get it from our diet. Studies have shown that Lysine can reduce the frequency and intensity of cold sore outbreaks, by slowing down the growth of the virus (HSV). Taking a Lysine supplement, such as Bioharmony L’Lysine, on a daily basis is a convenient way to ensure you are getting the adequate dose to prevent cold sore outbreaks.
- When you feel an attack coming, stop eating foods high in arginine such as chocolate, nuts, lentils, soya and shellfish. Research suggests Arginine promotes the replication of the virus.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar, which are immune suppressants, and increase immune-boosting vegetables.
- If you are run down, take a daily multivitamin and immune-enhancing Zinc and Vitamin C. Bioharmony® Ultimate Coffers you 1000mg of Vitamin C a day together with 20mg of Zinc to help you maintain good health all year round.
- Get plenty of sleep.