Guru Kate: Curing a cold sore

How do I get rid of a cold sore?

Dear Bug Bewildered,

Cold sores, disgustingly enough, are a form of herpes. They can be spread through sharing drinks, kissing, doing the dirty deed and any other transfer of open sore to skin.

They’re pretty gross and affect every three in five people. Cold sores can be spread from lips to genitals fairly easily, resulting in genital herpes. That would really stink.

Ok, onto ridding your lips of fever blisters. They get all tingly and itchy coming on; you try to tell yourself it’s something totally different. There’s no way you could be getting a cold sore. But alas, underneath the pus and scabby skin, you know it’s there.

What you can do at this stage is two-fold. Stop touching it and don’t let anyone else touch it. Seriously, the spread of that stuff is viral (literally) and just plain mean. Also, the more you touch it the longer it’ll take to heal.

You can try an acetaminophen based pain reliever, tea bags, replacing arginine with lysine in your diet and sleeping a lot.

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Steeped tea bags release tannins, which have been shown to improve cold sores.  Tannic acid has been rumored to have antiviral properties, but I’m not positive enough on this homeopathic remedy to completely back it up.

Now onto the arginine and lysine business, both of which are amino acids. Lysine is said to reduce cold sores while arginine is said to increase them. So, if you take out some arginine from your diet (nuts and crustaceans) and increase lysine (poultry and fish), you could see a dramatic decrease in the time needed to heal.

There’s also some success in topical creams. Abreva and super-lysine work in totally different ways. Super-lysine, kind of like a petroleum-based lip-gloss, works using the aforementioned amino acid lysine. Although its listed active ingredient is zinc oxide.

Abreva, on the other hand, works by changing the cell membrane of uninfected cells to keep the viral infection from spreading.

The degree of success for most remedies is based on your lifestyle, so if one doesn’t work out, there’s a good chance that you’ll find success in another. Just keep in mind that if you have a cold sore, don’t give anyone oral sex! Seriously!

Unfortunately, herpes simplex never goes away. If you’ve gotten a cold sore before, you still have the virus living within your body, but (hopefully) in its inactive form. The “flare-ups” happen in cases of extreme stress or sunlight exposure.

These sources are both avoidable. Stress relief can be achieved through many ways, different for each person. Wearing a hat, staying in the shade, or wearing chapstick with SPF can limit sunlight exposure.