Diet, Exercise and Nutrition
In general, a healthy lifestyle, which includes a high-fiber, low-fat diet and frequent aerobic exercise, has repeatedly been shown to lessen stress. Stress is one of the factors that can exacerbate cold sores. So following these recommendations is important, assuming that you are not on some other diet or exercise plan for other medical reasons.
Treatment isn’t necessary for the majority of people with cold sores. Many have no symptoms and rarely suffer outbreaks. Still others have mild outbreaks that go away within a week or so. For those who suffer frequent or severe outbreaks, new medications are available which will in some cases shorten the length, severity and frequency of outbreaks. In the early 1980s, acyclovir was developed for the treatment for genital herpes (HSV-2). In severe cases of HSV-1, acyclovir may be prescribed. Acyclovir may have side effects. One in 10 people taking acyclovir may have headaches. Others may have nausea, vomiting, impaired kidney function, and rash. Acyclovir is generally not recommended for people with liver or kidney problems. Other antiviral medications include valacyclovir. People who take preventive anti-viral medication can expect a decrease in the frequency of attacks, but not necessarily a complete cessation.
Cold sores can also be treated with external medications. Your doctor may advise you to apply a compress made with Burow’s solution several times a day to soothe the sores and hasten healing. Supplies are available at drugstores without a prescription. After a few days, when the lesions no longer weep, the areas will heal more quickly if over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or petrolatum is applied to the crusted areas.
Although there is no cure for cold sores, there are several steps that may help reduce the number and severity of outbreaks. Among the most common triggers:
Skin or mucosal irritation
Increased exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light
Hormonal changes caused by menstruation or pregnancy
The common cold
Obviously, many of these cannot be prevented, but efforts can be made to decrease stress and reduce exposure to cold germs.
Some people say keeping the lips and face moisturized and protected from the sun will reduce the number of outbreaks. But others don’t seem to recognize any obvious triggers, so prevention is problematic.
If you suspect a new onset of cold sores, or if a diagnosis has been difficult to pin down, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as the sores begin to develop. Cold sores do not usually require medication. Indeed, medication may be imprudent or not helpful. Over-prescription of anti-virals can cause viruses to become resistance to medications.