I had always suffered from ‘cold sores’ from a very young age and vividly remember getting them for the very first time at around the age of five when I accidentally got myself sunburnt. Oddly enough and quite coincidentally when I went vegan six years ago – the virus became suppressed never rearing it’s ugly head until recently. The only cause and connection that I can logically find for this must have something to do with the severe injury and fracture to my bone, experienced three weeks ago when shattered with glass. A severe shock to my system, the ‘good soldiers’ came out to play – focusing on healing the wound, leaving my immune somewhat depressed. I should have immediately upped my vegan meal plan to 80% raw in order to give those soldiers an additional back up army! Up your raw vegan food intake – give your body the boost it deserves!
Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus. There are two types, called type 1 and type 2. Either type can be caught on any part of the body: lips and genitals are the most common places. This note is about facial sores – which can also be called fever blisters, facial herpes or herpes labialis.
On the face, herpes simplex type 1 is more likely to recur than type 2. So if you are getting repeated cold sores, then you probably have herpes simplex type 1.
You catch cold sores by being kissed by someone who has an active facial cold sore. This might have happened just the other day – or maybe when you were a child, perhaps by being kissed by a relative.
Oral sex is a common way of passing on cold sores from one person’s mouth to another person’s genitals (genital herpes) – or vice versa.
Sometimes it will be caught on ordinary skin such as the hand or finger, if you kiss an area where there is sore or broken skin which can allow entry.
Cold sores are only caught by direct skin contact with the affected area, not through sharing cups, cutlery, towels, etc. Experts are clear about this, though you may see the opposite being stated on the internet or in leaflets from others.
You cannot give cold sores to someone who already gets them.
Sometimes, when you first catch cold sores, you can have ulcers inside the mouth and throat as well as, or instead of, the usual sores on the lip. You may have a fever and other flu-like symptoms.
Cold sores are very common. In Britain, about seven in ten people have caught the virus that causes them. However, most don’t know, as only one in five will notice any symptoms. Whichever herpes simplex type you have, you could catch the other type in the same place or elsewhere. Infection with a second type often goes unnoticed and symptoms may be very mild. This is because the antibodies that have developed to fight the first virus also help control the other one.
What are cold sores like?
- First a small red patch appears
- A blister or cluster of blisters develops.
- The blister bursts, leaving a raw area.
- The raw area begins to heal and scab.
- Scabs may crack when you move your mouth and this will delay healing. Try to keep the skin moisturised.
- Do not pick at the scab – this will delay healing.
- Wash your hands before and after applying cream.
- The sore will heal itself without scarring, usually in about 7-10 days.
The virus hides in a nearby nerve and can sometimes reappear later on.
Other herpes viruses also hide away and may recur; for example, chickenpox/shingles and glandular fever, but they do not cause cold sores.
If you caught your cold sore on your lips, it can recur anywhere on your face. It will not reappear elsewhere on your body. Your immune system will prevent you from spreading it (or catching it again) on another area.
You may feel an itch, tingle or shooting pain first. Repeat cold sores are usually much milder than the first ones.
Triggers vary from person to person: try to find out what causes your outbreaks so that you can try to prevent them.
Common reasons for recurrences are illness, stress, tiredness, being run down, menstruation, too much alcohol or ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or sunbeds.
A healthy lifestyle can help to keep your immune system in good shape and make cold sores less likely. Avoid any triggers you have identified, and:
- Get enough sleep.
- Improve your diet.
- If sunlight or sun-beds trigger your outbreaks, use a good quality sun block, especially on the lips.
Some people with cold sores have said that applying a wrapped ice pack to the area for 90 minutes prevents the outbreak, but take care not to cause frostbite. (This idea has not been medically tested.)
Using cream with lemon balm mint extract (melissa officinalis) early on has been shown to prevent outbreaks. This plant contains molecules which prevent the virus from getting into the skin cells.
Some peole with cold sores on the face have told us that these ideas helped them – but they have not been medically tested:
- Cold used tea-bags applied hourly can help.
- Geranium oil, tea tree oil – diluted – and lavender oil – will soothe.
- Keep the skin soft and moist with an unscented product.
In rare cases, a facial cold sore may affect one eye (not both). This will be a recurrence, after a previous cold sore infection. If one eye is tingling and sore or red, a GP or an optician can check if the cause is herpes simplex virus. If it is, you may be referred to a specialist eye hospital.
A few unlucky people get them too often. People with areas of broken skin (like eczema) should be careful during their first infection as sores may spread over the area of broken skin.
Newborn babies should not be exposed to cold sore virus – if you get cold sores, don’t kiss babies!
Ignore advertising campaigns designed to stigmatise people with cold sores. Making people feel ashamed, embarrassed or fearful is a common advertising tactic to encourage sales of treatments. First and foremost, if you are not already vegan – go vegan, increase your intake of raw. Up your greens, up all your fruits and veg. The most efficient way of boosting your immune system is through a fully raw vegan meal plan. If you’re getting blisters – this could the first sign that your body is giving to you to let you know that your carotenoid levels are way down, so boost up your antioxidant levels and get your system back to it’s healthy alkaline state. Consider citrus, mango, peppers, onion, garlic and ginger – lots of raw salad and plenty of green juice!