Have you ever looked forward to a big event or a special date only to feel that tingling sensation on your lip that means a cold sore is on it’s way? Why do we get them and what should you do about it?
Types of Lip and Mouth Sores
Lip sores are painful at worst and irritating at best; and they always seem to appear at the most inopportune moments in your life. The two most common are:
1. Cold Sores (also called Fever Blisters) – Cold Sores are contagious with lip to lip contact, and are usually caused by Herpes Simplex virus 1. Some common causes are stress, fatigue, sun exposure, illness, cold weather or wind, hormones or trauma to the lip. The ugly red bump that eventually appears on the lip is typically preceded by a tender sensation that swells into a lesion filled with fluid within a few days.
2. Canker Sores – Canker sores are not contagious and are ulcers that occur in the soft tissues inside your mouth or gums where cold sores don’t usually appear. Canker sores can be caused by stress, certain foods such as pickles or salty potato chips, food allergies, ill-fitting dentures, braces, and by brushing your teeth too roughly.
Can You Prevent Lip and Mouth Sores?
According to the Abreva Website, there are things you can do to minimize cold sore flare-ups:
Manage Stress and Fatigue – If you are prone to cold sores, don’t try to pack too much into your day, get your 8 hours of Z’s, and learn to incorporate relaxation exercises into your day. Spend time with friends!
Exercise – Inactivity can cause fatigue and allow stress to fester! Work out the day’s stressors by taking a daily brisk walk!
Protect lips during inclement weather – When outside in cold weather, protect your lips with moisturizers, lip balm and a scarf. In hot, dry weather, stay hydrated and use lip balm with sunscreen.
Protect against Trauma – Wear mouth guards during sports. Let your dentist know your lips are sensitive to cold sores.
Don’t Push Your Luck – Wash your hands often, eat healthy and take your vitamins. Exercise regularly and avoid contact with others who are sick. Don’t kiss someone with an obvious lip sore!
What to Do What You Get a Cold or Canker Sore
Cold sores will heal on their own within two weeks. There are over the counter topical remedies that may help such as Lidocaine, Zilactin, Blistix, Neosporin, Campho-Phenique, Carmex, or Abreva. However the OTC remedies are usually not as effective as a prescription such as Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir) or Valacyclovir (Valtrex).
Canker sores will go away within a week or so. However if they are unusually large or do not seem to be healing, you should check with your doctor or dentist . Over-the-counter pastes such as Orabase, Aphthasol and Lidex or Vanos can relieve pain and encourage healing. MayoClinic.com tells us that some medications not specifically intended for canker sores can help healing, such as Tagamet or colchicine. MayoClinic also recommends Debacterol which is a topical solution specifically designed to treat canker sores or gum problems. Your doctor can prescribe a mouth rinse that can reduce swelling and relieve the pain of a canker sore or you can try a homemade mouth rinse of salt water, 1 teaspoon of baking soda in ½ cup warm water, or a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water.
Pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or Advil will also help the discomfort of both canker or cold sores, and a cold compress may provide additional relief for mouth or lip sores. No matter what, do not squeeze or pinch the blisters! And if a cold sore or canker sore does not heal within two weeks, be sure to notify your doctor to ensure that the sore is not cancerous.
Cold sores and canker sores are a fact of life in this hustle and bustle world we live in. Once they have flared up, all you can do is last it out. But during the next flare-up, relax, do what you can to minimize the damage and ask yourself what the likely cause might have been. Then, vow to do your best to develop a lifestyle that will minimize cold sore flare ups in the future.
MayoClinic.com – “Cold Sore”
MayoClinic.com – “Canker Sore”
Abreva.com – Know the Triggers