You know that feeling when you wake up in the morning with that tingle on your lip? You think it is just a pimple but it never goes away. It oozes and itches and you notice a clear fluid that comes out of it. You ask your Doctor and he or she tells you it is a cold sore or Type 1 Herpes to be exact.
What does that mean?
Isn’t that a STD?
Is it contagious?
What do I do now?
These are all valid questions when it comes to cold sores (they are also called fever blisters). There are some things that you really need to know about them because first, they are very contagious. If not treated right, you can pass it on to your spouse and your kids. But, let’s start from the beginning. How did you get herpes if it wasn’t from sex?
Well it’s simple really. The herpes simplex virus one (or HSV-1 for short) isn’t exactly an STD. The herpes simplex virus two is the STD. What HSV-1 is an infection that gets into your blood stream but instead of going to your genitals like HSV-2, it goes to your lips. You can transmit it to the genitals if you were… you know, while you had an outbreak. The only thing is, there is no way to cure it. It will always pop up with its trigger. For me, that is stress and sickness. For others it can also be food or too much sun. So learn your trigger and stay away from it. Then the outbreaks will get less and less.
And for where you got it? I was given mine as a baby. Someone touched my hands who had the infection on them and then I touched my mouth and there you have it. I have been battling these things ever since. In a word, it sucks having them but through my life time of having them pop up, I have come with a few tricks. To my knowledge, I have not given anyone this disease.
HOW TO NOT PASS IT ON:
What can you do to make sure that you don’t pass this on to people around you? Here are my tricks in keeping this little present I was given to myself.
- Wash your hands!
The importance of keeping your hands clean during an outbreak is crucial to not giving it to someone else. You don’t touch it and, if you do, you go wash your hands IMMEDIATELY. I always carry hand sanitizer with me in case I can’t get to sink right away.
- Don’t touch anyone with your lips
This one should be a no brainer but it not as easy as it sounds. When I have an outbreak, I don’t kiss anyone and I don’t let anyone drink out of anything I have. All my silver ware goes in the dishwasher and I normally use disposable straws when possible. It kills me though having to be distant from my husband. We have no physical contact at all when I have an outbreak. Nothing! No kissing, hugging, or any sexual contact. If he has an issue, he gets to fix it himself. The risk is just too much. I would hate to have him catch and now have to deal with it the rest of his life. The same goes for my daughter but she is a little easier. I just don’t kiss her on the cheek, keep my cups away from her, and we are good to go. I just have to wash my hands to insure I don’t pass it to her when I pick her up.
- Don’t play with the scabs
It will be super tempting to play with the scabs as they fall off. Don’t do it! The fluid in the sore is what is contagious and it can pass on to other parts of your face. So as the scabs start to come off, just let them. Not playing with them will also help make any scarring less.
Ok, so I gave you a few tips on how not to pass the disease on, now how about treating them? The key to treating a cold sore is drying it out. Most people like me experience dry lips all the way around when I have cold sore. The only problems with putting lip balm on it 1. you have now contaminated you balm and 2. it holds in the moisture that you are trying to dry out. So I just tough it out while I have an outbreak. Yes my lips split but not for as long as if I was moisturizing my lips. So what do you do instead to dry them out?
I love using Tea Tree Oil! My second choice, in case you have more sensitive skin, is Lavender Oil. These two oils dry out the cold sore nicely and don’t have any chemicals in them. I have also been told that ice helps. This has never worked me but it might work for you. If you prefer over the counter stuff, Abreva is said to work great. I have never had to use it since my oils have always done the job for me.
How do you apply it? I would suggest using a q-tip or tissue. You can use your finger but you really have to wash with antibacterial soap after. This is prime time to pass it on to someone if you don’t wash your hands properly after.
Are cold sores the end of the world? No. They are like anything in life and won’t be a big deal if you take care of them and yourself correctly. They will look worse than they really are once you get the hang of the precautions to take when you are having an outbreak. Good luck and stay healthy.