Common ailments

Cold sores

I’ve never suffered with cold sores but a few days ago I developed one at the corner of my mouth.  I have heard cold sores should be left to heal on their own but mine seems to be spreading and has become more painful. What can I do to heal it as soon as possible?

Cold sores are irritating and painful blisters which appear on the face usually on or around the mouth. Though harmless, they can be extremely painful and many people feel uncomfortable having a cold sore visible on their face. Cold sores are caused by a virus and can develop at any stage of your life. They often appear if your immune system is already weakened due to a bout of cold or flu, or if you have been feeling run-down or stressed.

Without treatment cold sores usually heal within 7 to 10 days. The virus then returns to its dormant state and is reactivated again if you are ill, stressed or have a weakened immune system.

There are some home remedies you could try to get rid of the cold sore such as increasing your intake of vitamin C. You can also try applying a small amount of vinegar to the affected area using a cotton wool pad. Vinegar is acidic and viruses struggle to develop after coming into contact with acid. Anti-viral creams are often used for the treatment of cold sores but these are most effective if used at the first sign of a cold sore - the onset of a cold sore is usually accompanied by a tell-tale itching or tingling sensation in the affected area. Anti-viral creams are available from your local pharmacy without prescription.

To help prevent cold sores developing in the future, try to keep your lips well moisturised so they don’t become chapped or dry. Make sure you get enough sleep and lead a healthy lifestyle to help strengthen your immune system. Also, if the sun is out remember to apply sun cream as exposure to sunlight can also cause a cold sore.

Finally, cold sores are contagious. You should therefore avoid close contact with others until your cold sore has completely healed and disappeared, and remember to practice good hygiene to prevent bacteria from the cold sore spreading.

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