Fever Blisters - by Dr Trevor Baillie
Cold sores or fever blisters are common skin conditions that affect 15 percent to 30 percent of the population. Cold sores are actually caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and are the most common manifestation of a herpes simplex virus infection. Fever blisters are caused more often by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) than herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). As a matter of fact, more than 85 percent of the world's population has been infected with HSV-1. These infections follow the usual course of herpes simplex virus infections in that the first outbreak is usually more painful and lasts longer than recurrent infections.
The first time the skin in or around the mouth comes in contact with the herpes simplex virus; the outbreak occurs inside the mouth -- on the gums, tongue, and throat. This is called gingivostomatitis. This first infection occurs most often in childhood, and the highest incidence of infection occurs between 6 months and three years of age. Children get pain, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and may have difficulty swallowing. These symptoms last for about a week and resolve spontaneously. Children with gingivostomatitis are at risk for dehydration if the pain keeps them from drinking fluids. Water-based popsicles are sometimes used to provide hydration and pain relief.
Once a person has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus, the virus remains in certain cells in the body and can reactivate at any time. This reactivation can be triggered by trauma to the skin, menstruation, sun exposure, stress, fever, and other causes and produces the lesions we know as cold sores or fever blisters. Fever blisters are most often seen on the border of the lip and consist of three to five vesicles which over the next three to five days, become pustular, ulcerative, and then crust over. Symptoms are usually most severe 8 hours after the outbreak. Most people have about 2 outbreaks per year, but 5 percent to 10 percent have greater than 6 outbreaks per year. Recurrent infections are often preceded by a prodrome, symptoms that appear before the outbreak occurs. Common prodromal symptoms for fever blisters are pain, tingling, and burning. A herpes prodrome can last from 2 hours to 2 days.
Spread of Fever Blisters
Fever blisters are contagious and spread by direct contact with infected saliva or droplets in the breath, or by skin to skin contact. The herpes simplex virus can be reactivated in response to various stimuli including UV radiation (sun exposure), stress, a cold, illness, or dental work.
Tips for relieving fever blisters
Icing the sore can be an effective temporary pain reliever, try using an ice pack, rather than touching ice directly to the sore, and keep moving the ice around. Do not ice for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Applying heat to the sore may also provide relief.
Herpes simplex outbreaks, and hence cold sore outbreaks, are believed to be triggered by certain things in certain people. It has been determined that wearing sunscreen on the lips and other vulnerable areas may help prevent outbreaks in people whose outbreaks are triggered by sun exposure.
It is also believed that stress may cause outbreaks in some people, and so practicing relaxation techniques to reduce stress levels may ward off outbreaks for these people.
A weakened immune system probably allows outbreaks in general, so it's a good idea to try to stay as healthy as possible by eating right, exercising, and avoiding allergens, drugs, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Some research has connected herpes outbreaks with the amino acid arginine, which is found in foods such as chocolate, cola, peas, cereals, peanuts, gelatin, cashews and beer. The evidence isn't conclusive at this point, but if you have frequent outbreaks, you may want to try limiting your consumption of these foods and eliminating consumption during outbreaks.
Some women experience cold sore outbreaks during or just before menstruation.
It is possible that the amino acid L-Lysine (an essential amino acid for healthy tissue in the mouth) may help prevent outbreaks so if you experience frequent outbreaks you may want to try taking a lysine supplement daily.
A mud-mask product is excellent for an oozing cold sore. Apply it to the sore at night to help dry it up. If the sore is on your lips, you can hide the mud during the day by using a lip liner brush (which you discard or disinfect after the outbreak) and mixing a bit of lipstick with the mud. It will cover your sore and keep it from oozing during the day, often one of the most unpleasant aspects of having a cold sore.
If the sore erupts on your lips, apply lib balm several times a day. If applied from the start of the outbreak this can stop the blister from forming into a scab and therefore reduce the length of the outbreak. Be careful - if you press too hard on the sore you can break it and cause it to scab. To prevent the virus from spreading, it's important that you use your fingertip or a cotton swab to apply the lip balm, and don't let your finger or the cotton swab touch the lip balm after it touched your sore. Most importantly wash your hands immediately after applying the lip balm.
As soon as you feel the burning, tingling sensation that tells you of an impending outbreak, dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol or tea tree oil and apply it until the tingling spot feels "hot". Doing this 2-3 times per day or more may subdue or even prevent the breakout. In addition, do everything you can to avoid irritating or touching the spot to prevent worsening the breakout, slowing the healing process, or spreading the virus.
Hormonal changes can sometimes prompt an outbreak. Don't be surprised if certain forms of birth control (i.e. morning after pill) cause an outbreak.
Holistix Fever Blister Buster Pack may help with the healing of a fever blister and reduces the chance of getting fever blisters.
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