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Cold sores – Prevention, Treatment and L-Lysine?

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Ever had lots going on, like Christmas parties, weddings… you name it, and out of nowhere, a dreaded cold sore appears? Cold sores are a very common complaint in the pharmacy, so they are nothing to be embarrassed about. They are viral in origin, caused by spread of the herpes simplex virus. This virus is highly contagious, and can remain dormant in your system, without you even realising, until one day you notice a cold sore on your mouth/nose area. Certain things can trigger its activation, which results in itchy, irritating lesions that take time to disappear.

two girls holding glasses at a party and laughing
Coming into party season and cold sores got you down? Keep reading for tips on how to deal when the cold sore monster strikes!

Triggers for activation of the normally dormant herpes simplex virus in an infected person include:

1. Emotional/psychological stress

2. A cut/wound in the affected area

3. Tiredness/fatigue

4. Different points in menstrual cycle can trigger the activation of the virus in some women

Tips for dealing with cold sores:

When you first feel the tingle (usually on your lips) that a cold sore has started to form:

1. Use an antiviral cream (e.g. Zovirax– there are generics also available which contain the exact same active ingredient)

2. Using an antiviral cream after the initial period will be less beneficial – it serves to stop the spread of the cold-sore/to stop the virus from replicating.

3. Use the antiviral cream up to 5 times a day for up to 4-5 days. This should lessen the duration of the cold sore, reduce discomfort and prevent its spread

4. Make sure to wash your hands and apply the cream with clean fingertips. Wash your hands after applying the cream also, to prevent its spread. Do not share your cream with anyone else.

If the cold sore is at the stage where it has already cracked, it would be best to use either a silicone barrier cream, like Blistex or Cymex, or to use a hydrocolloid patch especially for cold sores

1. Hydrocolloid patches are preferred by lots of patients, for cosmetic reasons and also because it keeps the cold sore hydrated, and makes it less susceptible to cracking, which can be really sore! It also means you are less likely to touch, and hence spread it.

2. There are also non-medicated creams available, which form a barrier, to keep the cold sore moisturised and they. Usually contain a disinfectant also

3. Make sure to have your own face towel and to put it in the wash after each use. This is to prevent the spread of the virus to other parts of your face, or to other people.

4. Due to the fact that the virus is highly contagious - No kissing or sharing cups/glasses, lipsticks etc.

5. Cold sores usually last 7-10 days. If you have one for longer than that, visit your GP. Also, if you are immunocompromised (meaning you have a weaker immune system than most people, due to chemotherapy, HIV/AIDs, immunosuppressant medication) then see your GP if you get a cold sore, as it could affect you more than it would affect the average person.

6. Do not put makeup over your cold sore! You will just risk infection of the open wound, and risk it spreading to other parts of your face via your makeup brushes/hands.

Get cold sores often?

This can be a sign that you are feeling run-down.

You may be lacking in sleep, which your immune system needs to function at its best, so make sure to get plenty of rest (6-8 hours per night), to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and to get some regular exercise.

Cold sores and supplements:

L-lysine is a supplement often recommended to people who get cold sores often. The human body cannot synthesise lysine, so it is essential in humans and must be obtained from the diet. Because herpes simplex virus (HSV) proteins are richer in arginine and poorer in lysine than the cells they infect, lysine supplements have been tried as a treatment. There is little clinical evidence to support this however, so I would not recommend it.

An all-round supplement containing vitamins, minerals and amino acids would be a good option to discuss with your pharmacist if you are feeling run-down. The suitability of a supplement for you will depend on your other medications/conditions, so make sure to discuss your options with either your GP or pharmacist. One supplement which I often recommend to people when they feel they need a boost is Revive Active, which is a supplement range which encompasses all different ages and needs. Check them out here if you're interested. (This is not a sponsored recommendation, it is just a supplement which I totally back, and which I have received training on and can see the science behind it).

There is no cure at present for the herpes virus, so the best we can do is try to prevent it from spreading to other people, and to maintain good overall health in order to support our immune systems, which should in turn reduce the number of breakouts in cold sores.

Hopefully you won't suffer too badly with them this winter! As always, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions... feel free to contact me on here, by email, on instagram or facebook.... wherever you want to reach out to me, do! I love hearing from you guys.

Have a great week,


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