Treat cold sores and herpes
Cold sores are painful, contagious blisters around the mouth that anyone can catch. Genital herpes is caused by a closely-related virus. You may
- prevent a cold sore
- treat a herpes outbreak
- be ready to fend off another attack
How cold sores spread
The herpes virus lives in the nerve root that supplies the affected area of skin and in the skin itself, and bursts out to the surface to cause a painful blistering eruption in response to ultra violet 'UV' light or various other triggers such as being run down. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is caught through any sort of intimate contact. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted even when someone does not have an obvious sore. It is therefore important to practise safe sex and use a condom.
A first infection with the genital herpes virus is often a very unpleasant event. You may feel 'fluey' with headache and mild fever before the outbreak of a blistery, incredibly painful area which will vary in size from a penny to a match box. It can appear on the buttock or genitals. This is not due to the soreness itself but caused by irritation of the nerves that go to the bladder.
Some people have a 'primary attack' and never, or at least very rarely, have another. A second and subsequent attack is never as bad as the first, and it can be nipped in the bud by taking a course of Aciclovir tablets.
Rarely, HSV can affect the eye.
- feeling fluey
- tingling/prickly feeling in the affected area
- outbreak of a cluster of small blisters on the lip, buttock or genitals
When you should contact a doctor
- you are having difficulty passing urine. If it gets worse and you are unable to pass urine at all, you may need to go to hospital so that a tube (catheter) can be inserted to drain the urine
- your eyes are affected
- your ulcer fails to heal or comes back quickly
- your ulcer bleeds
As a first infection with the genital herpes virus is often such an unpleasant event you may well wish to contact a doctor. The NHS provides good sexual health clinics throughout the UK which you may visit on a confidential basis if you do not wish to speak to your own GP. You can email or phone a doctor at Dr Morton's - the medical helpline© for more information, reassurance or confidential advice on what best to do.
Aciclovir prescribed in the form of tablets and cream is the medicine that can both prevent cold sores and treat herpes.
If you find that you regularly experience cold sores, for example whenever you go on holiday in the sun, or skiing or are otherwise exposed to UV light, you may need
If you have had a primary attack of genital herpes before and are concerned that there may be a recurrence, for example when you go on holiday, you may need
Please note that Aciclovir only has a licence for herpes prevention in people whose immune systems are compromised, but it is routinely prescribed by doctors for people who are very prone to herpes breakouts under stressful circumstances or sunlight. Ask for more information if you need it.
Certain diets may help reduce the frequency of attacks. Diets rich in the essential amino acid lysine (chicken and turkey, fish, dairy products and eggs are good sources) may help prevent an outbreak. By contrast, foods particularly rich in the amino acid arginine, such as chocolate or nuts may trigger an attack.