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Category Archives: Cold Sores

“What are cold sores and how do I get rid of them?”  This is a common question asked by many people.  Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).  This is not the same virus that causes genital herpes but they are related.  There are estimates that 80% of the population carry the virus and 60 million people have out breaks once or more per year.  The virus is contracted by an individual when they come in to contact with another individual who is infected.  Usually young children get them from relatives through kisses, or touching their faces after coming in to contact with the virus with their hands.   Some people carry the virus but never get an actual cold sore.  It is when people have the actual cold sore that they are contagious.  Once you have contracted the virus you can never get rid of it.  However, there are many treatments for cold sores and some steps to take to prevent an outbreak

The main prescription cream is called Zovirax.  The cream works by preventing DNA replication of the virus.  Similarly there is an oral medication by prescription called Valtrex.  This is taken as a dose of 2 grams twice a day for two doses.  It has been shown to shorten the duration of a cold sore episode by one day.

There are many non-prescription remedies on the market.  One of the most expensive but proven effective creams is called Abreva.  This cream works by preventing the spread of the virus from cell to cell.  It has been shown to improve healing time by about 17 hours compared to placebo.

Another cream which generally seems to help healing is Super Lysine Plus +.  Lysine can also be taken orally and seems to reduce recurrences of herpes infection and reduce the severity and healing time.  It is thought that lysine works because it competes with arginine, another amino acid, for uptake in to cells.  Arginine is used by the virus for replication.  If you have more lysine than arginine in your cells you have less virus production.

Chocolate and nuts are rich in arginine if you are a cold sore sufferer you may want to avoid them.  Vegetables, fish and dairy are lysine rich foods and may help you avoid a cold sore breakout.

There are a number of other creams on the market.  Lipactin, Zilactin-L and ACSO.  There are cost differences between them and they work in different ways.  ACSO is the most expensive and works by drying the blister.  Some of the others specifically treat the pain of the blister but may not shorten its duration.

If you are a frequent sufferer of cold sores its best to talk to your doctor about which of the above treatments would be best for you.  You want to make sure you have your cold sore treatment ready because most of the products work best at the first sign of the cold sore, (usually signaled by a tingling or burning sensation where the blister breaks out).  If you know what triggers your cold sores, try to avoid them.  Some individuals say that sun, oranges, chocolate and lipstick are their biggest triggers.  If you feel a cold sore coming on avoid direct contact with other individuals.  Teach your children to avoid sharing drinks, lip balm, and lipstick so they can avoid contracting the virus.

If you would like any more information on the above products please come and talk to your pharmacist.