When you’re not feeling well, you want a quick solution.
You may be familiar with allergy or cold treatments. But what about cold sores?
These fluid-filled blisters commonly found on or around the mouth are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once you are infected with the virus, different factors can trigger an outbreak of cold sores. It’s understandable to want to get rid of an outbreak immediately.
“If someone gets cold sores often, it will decrease their quality of life. These are visible and unattractive, but they also hurt,” says Dr. Chris Adigun, a board-certified dermatologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “If there is a way to remove the activation, then we do it.” We spoke to Adigun to discuss how to treat cold sores.
How to get rid of cold sores
You can treat cold sores with over-the-counter medications, an oral antiviral medication prescribed by your doctor, or an intravenous antiviral medication, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
One of the main treatments for cold sores is the prescription drug valacyclovir, says Adigun. Valacyclovir is an oral medication that treats different herpes virus infections, including cold sores, shingles and genital herpes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How to use valacyclovir?
Valacyclovir works by suppressing viral replication, Adigun explains. This makes it more difficult for the herpes simplex virus to manifest as a cold sore.
There are several ways to use the medicine. Some users will take it when they know they will be exposed to one of their triggers. The herpes simplex virus remains dormant in the body until it is reactivated by a trigger. Examples of common triggers include stress, UV exposure, and fever. Reactivation of the virus causes an outbreak of cold sores. If a person takes valacyclovir when exposed to a trigger, the drug will suppress viral replication and prevent the virus from progressing, Adigun says.
Some people will take valacyclovir when they start to feel signs in their body that they have a cold sore. These bodily signs are called prodromal symptoms. Examples of prodromal symptoms are “itching, burning, or tingling on the lip in the absence of anything burning, stinging, or itching,” says Adigun. Taking the drug during prodromal symptoms “stops viral replication in its tracks,” she adds.
Some people choose to take the medication daily. It’s an option for people who experience cold sores very persistently, she says.
How long does it usually take for a cold sore to go away?
If you leave your cold sore untreated, it will usually last about two weeks, says Adigun. However, if you take valacyclovir after a cold sore outbreak has already occurred, you can shorten the duration of the outbreak by a few days, she explains.
Cold sores are painful and can seriously damage a person’s self-confidence. A commonly Googled question asks if a cold sore is a deal breaker in a new relationship. Adigun points out that cold sores are incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of. And for those hesitant to put themselves out there because of their cold sores, she offers words of comfort: “Let’s get your cold sore treated, and you’ll be right back at it.” »
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