Once you have an active cold sore, there are only a few things you can do to speed their healing. Some people swear by ingesting lysine capsules. The amino acid lysine “competes” with arginine in the body, so arginine becomes less available to the virus, which, in some people, seems to slow their recurrence.
Once you have an outbreak however, lysine is not very effective in healing the blisters or shortening their duration.
Another approach is to head it off at the pass: attack the sore with medication as soon as you feel the first tingle or bump. Once it has a foothold, it seems to be more impervious to any interventions.
There are a couple of medications available for your anti-herpes arsenal and some that, in my experience, do nothing but make you think you’re doing something useful.
I’ve had some success with Abreva®, which is a topical cream. Apply it several times a day, starting when you first feel a tingle or bump. It does seem to help keep it from turning into a monster cold sore and also in healing it faster.
Abreva® helps heal cold sores
There are also prescription creams available, such as penciclovir and related compounds. I’ve had limited experience with these, but when I did use them, they didn’t seem to do much. Your mileage may vary. Talk to your doctor.
Are there ways to prevent them?
The herpes virus is opportunistic, so it tends to flare up when your immune system is compromised, so, as in football, the best defense is a good offense: strengthen your immune system by avoiding junk food, especially sugar, get plenty of exercise, water and sleep, minimize stress, and avoid excessive sun exposure. Yada-yada.
Another strategy is to avoid eating foods that are high in the amino acid arginine, especially tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, etc., and chocolate (sniff-sniff).
You can also take a daily pill, available by prescription only, with some variation of acyclovir, which has been proven to lessen outbreaks. I haven’t tried this because my cold sores are relatively rare and I don’t feel comfortable ingesting chemicals on a long term basis if I don’t have to. I don’t want to risk overtaxing my liver.
Of course, the best way to prevent them is to practice safe sex. Realistically, however, unless you avoid contact with other people (no kissing, no sex) you risk getting infected. Since many people don’t even know they have the virus, it’s virtually impossible at this time to protect yourself completely – unless you live in a bubble.
Even little kids are at risk when a parent or a well-meaning relative plants an affectionate kiss on them. Thanks Grandma.