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I've got cold sores and they keep recurring. What can I do?

This film is part of the series "How To Stop Cold Sores From Recurring"

How To Stop Cold Sores From Recurring

Charles Triay (General Practicioner) gives expert video advice on: I've got cold sores and they keep recurring. What can I do?

I've got cold sores and they keep recurring. What can I do?

Cold sores are produced by a viral infection called Herpes Simplex Type I. The thing about all herpes viruses is that once you've got a herpes virus, it remains latent in the body; you can't get rid of it. Chicken pox is one of them, for example. Later on in life, you get shingles - it's herpes also. Cold sores are related to a virus that you have in your system and the vast majority of the time it's going to be dormant, but every now and then it's going to break out in the form of a cold sore. A cold sore often happens when your immune system is run down, when you're too stressed, when you're too tired, or even when some local physical factors apply, such as if you've been exposed to too much sun or your lips have become too dry and cracked. Because a cold sore is a viral infection, we do have some antiviral treatments that can be quite effective for the treatment of cold sores. It's important that the treatment gets applied as soon as possible. Time is of the essence when trying to get a cold sore under control. Usually, we just treat patients with an antiviral cream that you apply on to the cold sore, and the ones we have nowadays really need to be applied frequently during the day. They need to be applied four or five times a day, otherwise it's not effective. However, if a cold sore is very severe, we can use tablets of a similar type of product that will be more effective. They will go into the bloodstream obviously, and hence control the severity more efficiently and quickly. Those are the things we can do for an acute attack. If the cold sore attacks are very recurrent and very frequent, some doctors will consider maintenance treatment with one of these medications on an ongoing basis for about six months, or even a year to eighteen months, but it is important that this is discussed with your doctor. You need to consider whether you really want to be taking a tablet every day of your life to prevent cold sores, so we're not going to give it for cold sores that, although recurrent, may be happening once every two or three months. Remember, one of the ways of preventing cold sores is to avoid excessive exposure to the sun. If you are exposed to the sun, use some protection factor, keep your lips well-hydrated by using some type of moisturiser such as Vaseline and try not to allow yourself to become too run down or tired.