There is no cure for cold sores or herpes simplex -- the virus stays inside the infected person for the rest of his or her life. Even though there's no definite way to prevent or cure cold sore outbreaks, most will heal and go away on their own in a few days to two weeks [source: WebMD].
However, there are therapies available that can treat cold sore symptoms while helping the body heal more quickly. For the first outbreak of cold sores, there are certain over-the-counter cold sore medications that can reduce irritation and improve healing time. For those who have frequent outbreaks, oral medications can be prescribed to lessen cold sore frequency. When a person has a weakened immune system, an antibiotic may be prescribed as well to avoid additional complications from HSV [source: WebMD].
For more information about treating cold sores, read Treating Cold Sores: Fast Facts.
Even though there's no definite way to prevent cold sore outbreaks, there are certain methods that can be used to resist the triggers. For example, an infected person should always wear sunscreen or lip balm when going out in direct sunlight. Those who practice stress management techniques tend to have fewer outbreaks, as do those who exercise regularly and get enough sleep [source: McKinley].
Further steps can be taken to help eliminate the painful symptoms of cold sore outbreaks. Placing a cold wet towel on the sores for 20 minutes at a time, three times a day, can reduce redness and swelling. Mouth rinses with baking soda can reduce the pain inside the mouth, and avoiding acidic foods will prevent further irritation. And certain over-the-counter products -- such as Anbesol -- can numb sore areas on the lips [source: WebMD].
To read more about cold sores, look over the links below
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Media Statement." February 26, 2009. (Aug.5, 2009). http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/s090226.html
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Cold sore: Causes." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009). http://mayoclinic.com/health/cold-sore/DS00358/DSECTION=causes
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Cold sore: Definition." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009).http://mayoclinic.com/health/cold-sore/DS00358
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Genital herpes: Definition." May 22, 2009. (Aug.5, 2009).http://mayoclinic.com/health/genital-herpes/DS00179
- McKinley Health Center. "Herpes Simplex (cold sores)." June 21, 2007.(Aug.5, 2009). http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/Handouts/pdfs/herpes_simplex.pdf
- WebMD. "Canker Sores: Overview." February 8, 2009. (Aug.5, 2009).http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/canker-sores
- WebMD. "Cold Sores - Home Treatment." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009).http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/cold-sores-home-treatment
- WebMD. "Cold Sores - Symptoms." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009).http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/cold-sores-symptoms
- WebMD. "Cold Sores - Topic Overview." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009).http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/cold-sores-topic-overview
- WebMD. "Cold Sores - Treatment Overview." March 13, 2008. (Aug.5, 2009).http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/cold-sores-treatment-overview