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Health Tips / Cold Sores

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Cold sores are lesions of the nerve endings that are caused by the Herpes simplex virus. Cold sores can affect the lips and surrounds, nose and eyes. The virus lies dormant in nerve endings until activated by trigger factors such as sunlight and UV light, poor general health, hormonal levels and certain medicines. Some people tend to have more active levels of the virus than others.

The first stage of a cold sore can last up to two days and is characterised by itching and pain. For the following two days when the virus is most active, the cold sore lesions tend to develop to their largest size and are at their most painful. During the following seven days the healing process starts and the viral activity reduces.

Preventative measures

While the virus cannot be fully eradicated, the onset can be reduced by having a better general level of health. When sun bathing, sunscreens with a total sun block should be used on the lip area. Lipsticks should never be shared and infants never kissed. Do not directly touch the cold sore as the virus can be spread from one part of the body to another.

Supplements such as Lysine are often recommended as a method of preventing the occurence of cold sores. 

Non-prescription treatments

Cold sores cannot be eradicated totally. Aciclovir, available as ZOVIRAX Cream or Pump and as VIRALIEF is very effective against cold sores. Applied at the initial phase, it can prevent the onset of an attack, while application later in the attack, can reduce the duration. ZOVIRAX and VIRALIEF  must be applied five times daily, starting at onset of the attack and continuing for three days after lesions have healed. Wash the hands thoroughly after application. 

Creams such as Cymex may be effective in healing the skin following a cold sore but cymex does not contain an anti-viral ingredient. 

Further information on medicines listed above including dosages and contra-indications are available at

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Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00