Cold sores can be a nightmare. A lot of us have had one at some point in our lives, and one of the worst things about them is that after you have one, they’re almost certainly going to come back. A lot of times the appearance of cold sores is basically unavoidable, but luckily there are things you can do to make sure they last for the shortest amount of time possible. Settle in for our suggestions on how to get rid of a cold sore.
Where Do They Come From?
Cold sores are also known as fever blisters and typically appear around the mouth and face (though they can flare up in other areas). They are a symptom of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). The virus itself can be fairly serious – the first breakout is often accompanied by a fever and other aches and pains. The cold sores, unfortunately, stick around to remind you of the virus and can resurface at random years after the initial infection.
HSV-1 is highly contagious, so be careful with friends, family, or your significant other if you don’t want to share the sores. It’s as simple as someone brushing their cold sore, then touching your hand, and you brushing a hair out of your face – you could end up with an outbreak of cold sores a few days later. Cold sores around the mouth sometimes look deceitfully like an average pimple, so be sure you know how to tell the difference.
The flare-ups of latent HSV-1 can seem random, but they’re often triggered by something happening in your life that probably seems unrelated. A fever from another virus or infection, elevated stress levels, or even extended exposure to the sun without proper protection can result in a new bout of cold sores. Typically outbreaks last 7-10 days. Luckily, though, there are some things you can try to decrease that length of time!
There are a lot of essential oils that have been mentioned in connection with treating cold sores. The biggest thing that many of these do is decrease the swelling (which will help alleviate any discomfort), but they can also help your body to better fight off the infection. Here are a few of the best essential oils to try.
- Tea Tree Oil. Dab some tea tree oil onto the affected area with a cotton swab a few times daily. Tea tree oil has strong antiviral properties which will kill the sick cells, causing the sore to dry up and disappear faster.
- Peppermint Oil. Apply in the same way, about three times a day. Peppermint oil has similar antiviral properties to tea tree oil, with the added bonus that the methanol it contains is a great natural healing agent to restore the skin after the infection has been rooted out.
- Witch Hazel. Once again, take a cotton ball or swab and apply to the cold sores – only once or twice a day for this one. Witch hazel is a natural anti-inflammatory and a natural astringent (it causes the skin to tighten up, pushing out infection). Use caution with this one, though: witch hazel is known to irritate sensitive skin, so do a patch test before applying it to your face.
- Lemon Balm Oil. Lemon balm has exactly the same effect as tea tree oil – it works as an antiviral to kill the diseased cells in order to eliminate cold sores quickly. This one is interesting because you can both apply the oil directly to the cold sore or make yourself some lemon balm oil tea and drink it. Or (I would recommend) both!
- Eucalyptus Oil. Apply this oil in the same way as the rest, by dabbing it onto your cold sores with a cotton swab. The eucalyptus oil is also an anti-viral and works pretty powerfully. It effectively kills the HSV-1 strain at its source, causing the blisters to disappear more quickly.
How To Get Rid of a Cold Sore With Household Remedies
Now for some remedies based on items that you probably already have at home! It’s truly amazing to me how many common kitchen items have a ton of uses outside of cooking. Here goes!
- Milk. Since it has antiviral and antibacterial properties, milk is a great treatment for something like a cold sore. Soak a cotton ball in milk and hold it on the affected area for a few minutes. Repeat this process a few times a day – as often as every two hours. Milk is also an anti-inflammatory (which is why it’s recommended when you eat food that’s too spicy!), so it’ll help with the discomfort from cold sores, too.
- Cornstarch. This one is a little less common, but since we have some in my kitchen I figured I’d throw it on here. Combine one tablespoon of cornstarch powder with some water to make a paste, then apply it evenly over your cold sores. Let it dry and leave it on for a few minutes, then wash off with some water. Repeat this process a few times daily for the best results. This will reduce and eliminate inflammation, and also helps naturally treat the itchiness of the sores.
- Honey. This couldn’t be simpler – just apply a dab of honey to each sore, leave it on for about 5 minutes, rinse, and repeat! You should do this twice a day – I think it’s easiest to do one right when you wake up and again at the end of the day. The honey will actually help to pull the infection out of the sore and soothe the irritated skin. Honey has been touted as one of the fastest ways to get rid of a cold sore.
- Salt. Sea salt will work the best for this, but any option will do. Put some salt on your finger (make sure it’s clean!) and hold it in place over the cold sore for about 30 seconds. Beware that this might sting! You can treat a cold sore with salt two or three times a day, and its antimicrobial properties will fight the viral infection.
- Vanilla. Dabbing a bit of vanilla extract onto your cold sore is a great treatment, especially if you catch it early on. Since vanilla contains alcohol, it makes it difficult for the virus to grow properly and can keep the cold sore from ever taking root in full force. Just put some on a cotton swab, hold it over the sore for a few minutes, and repeat 3-5 times a day.
- Garlic. This is another one that can be applied externally or ingested (or both). Garlic is known to be an antiviral and antiseptic, so it will fight the infection and keep germs that could spread to others (or other areas of your body) at bay. Either crush a garlic clove and apply directly to the sore or eat a raw garlic clove – the latter works best on an empty stomach, so probably before breakfast.
At the end of the day, cold sores are a huge pain. Luckily they’re relatively easy to get rid of! If your cold sore persists for more than 10 days, it might be worth calling your doctor to make sure you don’t need a prescription treatment. Also, remember that HSV-1 can remain dormant for long periods of time between outbreaks – it’s estimated that 80% of people worldwide are carrying the virus! So even though they stink, don’t panic if you wake up with a new cold sore. Just try one of these remedies and let us know how it works for you!
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