October 2020 Newsletter

A pain in the lip

Over the last few weeks I have noticed an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for cold sores in my pharmacy.

Cold sores are small blister-like spots that appear in or around the outside of the mouth that is caused by the virus known as herpes simplex.

This virus is present in about 80 per cent of adults, yet not everyone develops the cold sore symptoms.

The herpes virus remains inactive in many people, sometimes for life yet there are certain factors that can activate the virus to cause the painful sores.

Some of the factors that can activate the virus include; tiredness and fatigue; skin damage near the affected area; periods; emotional stress; strong sunlight, cold or wind; alcohol; and, becoming sick with a cold or flu.

The first symptoms of a cold sore start with an itchy sensation which may form small blisters which crust after a few days.

They can be quite painful for many people.

People may also get other symptoms of fever, nausea, headaches, sore throat or swollen glands.

There are a few treatments available to help lessen the symptoms and even prevent the outbreak if caught early enough.

At the first sign of the tingling sensation, a cream containing the antiviral acyclovir can be applied five times a day for five days.

This cream comes in many different brands available from your local pharmacy or supermarket.

Another effective treatment is a medication available only from pharmacies containing famciclovir.

Again, at the first sign of cold sores, you take the three tablets all at once to try and prevent the onset of the sores.

With both of these antiviral treatments, the earlier therapy is started the more chance of preventing a full-blown outbreak of the cold sore.

Generally speaking, more than 72 hours after the initial symptoms, these treatments are ineffective.

Some patients who experience recurrent cold sores take a supplement containing lysine to potentially prevent virus reactivation.

The scientific evidence on its effectiveness is not particularly strong, yet some people seem to derive a good deal of benefit from regular preventative dosing.

For further information or to discuss anything about cold sores, treatment and prevention, talk to your local pharmacist, GP or preferred health care professional.