Cold hard facts about the common cold sore


Ah, the dreaded cold sore. It happens to the best of us, but it stings every time. Literally!

Cold sores – also called fever blisters and officially termed the Herpes Simplex Virus (usually Type 1) – don’t be so alarmed by the term ‘herpes’. It’s not all bad. Cold sores typically appear on the lips or around the mouth area, and can be extremely painful or uncomfortable. They can also be a source of embarrassment for more sensitive souls, due to their unattractive appearance and their association with genital herpes – which is usually caused by HSV 2 and spread almost exclusively through sexual contact. Oral herpes (HSV 1 in most cases) is far more easily contracted – it can be spread through an innocent cheek-to-cheek kiss with a friend or relative, skin-to-skin exposure during a rugby match or wrestling tournament, or any other form of ‘close personal contact’, according to the Mayo Clinic. The two strains of the virus, however, can be interchangeable via oral sex, so it’s possible to contract HSV1 in the genital region or HSV2 in the oral region, though this is relatively uncommon.

What’s important to realise, if you’ve contracted HSV and are suffering feelings of shame or embarrassment because of it, is that you are not alone. Far from it – in fact, research suggests that between 65% and 90% of the global adult population carries either Type 1 or 2 of the herpes simplex virus.

Once contracted, HSV can be extremely difficult to banish from the body, as it ‘hides’ in the spinal column, where it cannot be eradicated by medication. So most people who carry it will experience recurrent outbreaks throughout their lifetime, particularly if the immune system is compromised through stress or illness. However, over time the body builds up a natural resistance to the virus, so the recurrence of episodes should decrease and in some cases ceases altogether. In a small percentage of cases, HSV is asymptomatic, and the carrier may not even know that he or she is infected.

Treatment

At present, there is no cure for either HSV Type 1 or 2, though vast leaps have been achieved in recent years, with scientists now having a far more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms at play in the disorder.

Studies of several potential cures are currently underway and many researchers are optimistic that a cure may be available within the next decade or two. But those living with HSV should take heart in the fact that, in the meantime, the condition is a manageable one. Three antiviral drugs – Valaciclovir, Aciclovir and Famciclovir (and the generic forms of these medications) – are commonly prescribed to quell outbreaks, and can even be used on a maintenance basis to suppress the virus and reduce the likelihood of recurrences.

Additional tips:

Stay healthy – HSV generally takes hold when the immune system is challenged, so illness, consistent late nights, drinking or drug-taking, excessive stress or other physical or mental pressures can all trigger an episode.

* Protect yourself from the sun – exposure to UV rays can trigger a herpes outbreak. Refrain from practising mouth-to-mouth kissing or oral sex if you have active lesions or feel an outbreak coming on (feelings of sensitivity, burning or itching in the region of the mouth could be signs that a fever blister is on the way).

* Cover up – most pharmacies now offer specialised herpes plasters laced with anti-viral medication, which not only promote healing and prevent any potential spread of the virus, but can also help those who are self-conscious about fever blisters to feel less exposed.

* Hands off! You may be inclined to keep touching it in a bid to cover it up, but touching it could cause a bacterial infection.

* Sharing isn’t always caring. Be mindful and don’t share lipsticks- or random kisses. Definitely don’t share cold sore creams and get rid of all products used on your lips after the dreaded fever blister has healed.

Banish those blisters

If you suffer from cold sores, Kroko ColdSoreFix® is an effective and simple remedy which helps to clear them up. Kroko ColdSoreFix ® is a hygienic, transparent film which isolates blisters. Two bottles with a blue and red lid for easy identification are supplied. Using a cotton bud, you first apply the Hygienic Cleaner and then apply the Transparent Cover Film which will isolate the blister and cover, allowing natural healing to occur. Available from Clicks, Dis-Chem and select pharmacies for around R125. We have 10 packs of Kroko ColdSoreFix® to giveaway to 10 BSA readers. Simply fill in your details below.

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