Cold sores are unsightly, contagious and very painful sores, normally occurring on the edge of the lip or nose.
Cold sores are created by the replication process of the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2. Current studies show that about 77% of cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex type 1 and about 23% by the type 2 version of this simplex virus. Cold sores caused by either type of the herpes virus are identical. They both look the same, hurt the same, are just as contagious, and last about the same amount of weeks.
Cold sores will occur and reoccur in about the same location as the initial infection. For example, if your cold sore appears on your upper left lip, then this is the site of the original infection. The virus that causes cold sores lives in the nerve cells. It seeks out the nearest nerve fibers at the site where the virus enters the body. That herpes virus makes a home in that particular nerve fiber for the rest of your life.
Now don't be fooled. You can be infected several times in different locations. If another cold sore appears on your lower right lip, this is a different infection and you now have located another "family" of the cold sore virus living in another nerve fiber.
When you have a cold sore, keep in mind that you are not only very contagious to others, but to other locations on your own body too. Cold sores can appear anywhere on the body where the virus found a crack in the protective skin layer.
The herpes simplex virus normally is in hibernation farther down the nerve fibers from the surface. If you get a cold sore on your upper left lip, chances are this virus is hiding in the nerve ganglia near your left ear.
Your body defenses create cold sore anti-bodies each time you have a cold sore outbreak. These anti-bodies surround and help keep the herpes virus asleep. Should there be some stress in another part of your body, these defenses may weaken and the cold sore virus will snatch the opportunity to move to the surface and create new viruses.
The herpes simplex virus cannot reproduce itself. The virus will enter a nerve cell and force the cell to clone copies of itself. When the cell becomes full of new virus, the original virus will destroy the cell to release all the new clones. This destruction of millions of cells in a close area create those hideous open cold sores.
The open cold sore would be painful enough, but it is even more so because the herpes virus creates the cold sore right on the end of that nerve fiber. The pain is quite similar to a dentist hitting a nerve.
The most common way of infecting others with cold sores is kissing. Doting relatives and friends usually infect children before they are seven. Remember, you are contagious from the first tingle until about two days after complete healing.
Cold sore sufferers will many times create a new area of infection on their body with contaminated fingers or towels. The fluid that weeps from cold sores is teaming with fresh virus looking for a new home. If you have a cut on your finger and you get even one virus in that cut, you will likely get cold sores on your finger.
The body will naturally cure your cold sores without any special cold sore treatment but it often takes three to four weeks. A long time to be socially sidelined and feeling poorly.
There are many over-the-counter and prescription treatments for cold sores. The best and quickest relief comes from topical treatments - a salve or ointment that you put directly on the cold sore. There are some prescription pills that are available but these are generally slow acting, giving no immediate relief for the cold sore sufferer. For the most part, oral remedies from the drug companies have been dismal failures.
Many people have reported great success with oral doses of the amino acid Lysine. Recommended dosage is 1000 mg. twice a day during the cold sores outbreak and 500 mg. per day between cold sores.
Ice is still the most universal and readily available cold sore treatment. Put ice cubes in a zipper type plastic bag and you'll avoid a lot of mess. Ice reduces swelling, deadens the pain, and helps discourage the cold sores virus.
And applying ice at the first sign of a cold sore often prevents the cold sore from actually occurring or shortens the life-span of your cold sores.