Valentine’s Day Warnings
Valentine’s Day Warnings
14th February is valentine’s day when couples celebrate their undying love for each other which is a lovely gesture but can be a problem if you happen to have a cold sore. Cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lips and around the mouth. They usually cause tingling, itching or burning sensation.
They are caused by the Herpes simplex virus and are highly contagious. There may be no symptoms when you are first infected as the virus lies dormant in your nerves until it is triggered at a later date. This original or primary infection usually happens in early childhood for example when a child is kissed by a family member or friend with a cold sore.
What are the triggers?
Every so often the virus can be activated by certain triggers which vary from person to person but can include:
- Having another infection
- Having a high temperature
- Emotional upset or psychological stress
- tiredness and fatigue
- An injury to the affected area
- Strong sunlight
But often there is no obvious trigger for an outbreak.
How are they treated?
Cold sores usually clear up by themselves within about 7-10 days. However, there are antiviral creams like aciclovir (Zovirax ) or penciclovir, that you can buy from our pharmacy without a prescription. If used correctly these can help ease your symptoms and speed up the healing time. To be effective you should appy these creams at the first sign of a cold sore appear (when you are feeling a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth).
Using an antiviral cream after this initial period is unlikely to have much effect. They should be applied up to five times a day for four to five days and then discarded. There are also cold sore patches that contain a special gel called hydrocolloid. They are effective for skin wounds and are placed over the sore area to hide it while it heals. These treatments do not get rid of the virus or prevent future outbreaks.
When to see your Doctor
See your doctor if the cold sore lasts longer than two weeks and has not improved with over-the-counter treatment. If your eyes become sore, see your doctor as soon as possible as it may mean that you have transferred the cold sore virus to your eyes. Viral eye infections need immediate attention to avoid damage to your sight. If your cold sore is particularly severe or occurs very frequently, your doctor may prescribe tablets containing aciclovir or valaciclovir.
How do I prevent the spread of cold sores?
It is not possible to prevent the primary infection or prevent an outbreak of cold sores but you can take steps to minimise the infection. Cold sores are at most contagious when they burst until they have completely healed.
Other people should avoid contact with your cold sore and the surrounding area until it is completely healed though there is no need for you to stay away from work or your child to miss school.
You can help minimise the spread of the cold sore virus happening again by:
- Avoid touching cold sores unless you are applying cold sore cream- creams should be dabbed on gently rather than rubbed in as this can further damage your skin.
- Always wash your hands before and after applying cold sore cream and after touching the affected area.
- Do not share cold sore creams or medication with other people as this can spread the infection
- Do not share items that come into contact with the affected area such as lipstick or cutlery.
- Avoid kissing and oral sex until your cold sores have completely healed.
- Be particularly careful around new born babies, pregnant women and people with a low immune system such as those with HIV or having chemotherapy.
For more advice about this or any other minor ailment ask for a chat with our pharmacist
in our consulation room for privacy if you would prefer.