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What causes cold sores?

Cold sores are very common (about one in five Canadians suffer from them) and appear as blisters around the lip area. They are often called fever blisters, and are caused by the Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) through contact with an affected person. Sores can appear right on time before group presentations or photo shoots, largely because they can be triggered by stress. Having cold sores does not mean the person has genital herpes. This stigma attached to cold sores is a result of poor public education. Both viruses are subsets of HSV but a cold sore is type 1 while genital herpes is type 2, contracted and treated differently. Another herpes virus is chickenpox (varicella zoster) that may cause shingles later in life.
The stages of a cold sore outbreak start with burning, tingling or itching progressing into clusters of blisters, which take up to three weeks to heal. Recurring outbreaks may be accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, a sore throat and muscle aches.

What causes cold sore outbreaks?

Citrus or Citric Acid: Some who suffer from common cold sores report breakouts after eating citrus fruits (oranges, mango, pineapple), health supplements that contain citrus acid (some vitamin supplements), and even citrus based cocktails.
Mouth Trauma: This is one reason your dentist may prescribe an ointment for treating cold sores. If you find that you have cold sore breakouts after dental work, this may be triggering an onset. Talk to your dentist if this is a problem for you.
Other reported triggers to cold sore onsets are sunlight (especially sunburns) and stress.

Treatment Options for the Common Cold Sore

UV Lip Screen: Sunlight can cause outbreaks, so throw a good quality UV protective lip balm in the cooler before heading to the beach.
Avoid Stress: Stress is hard on our physical and mental health in so many ways. Develop a healthy personal routine for calmness when you feel stress starting to develop, like chill-out music through noise canceling headphones and a regular exercise routine.
Abreva Ointment: Abreva is a popular non-prescription topical cream commonly used for cold sores. When applied immediately at the first stage (tingling), Abreva penetrates into the skin to block the virus. Abreva is the only non-prescription cold sore topical approved by the FDA to shorten healing time.
Apo-Acyclovir Ointment: Your physician, dermatologist or dentist can prescribe Apo-Acyclovir ointment to be applied 4 to 6 times a day for up to 10 days. Apply the ointment as soon as you feel that familiar “tingle” on your lip. Apo-Acyclovir ointment won’t cure the virus that causes cold sores, but will alleviate pain and lessen healing time. This is not the only prescription available for cold sores. Talk to one of our pharmacists for more information if you are interested in trying a prescription medication for recurring outbreaks. Ask about Xerese, a new antiviral medication with hydrocortisone and anti-inflammatory agents for the treatment of cold sores that can be prescribed for patients 12 years of age and over.

About Us

Summerland Guardian Pharmacy has been serving the local community for over a century. We now offer online shopping, delivery services and outstanding professional consultations to our customers who ask us about personal health care issues. If you have any questions about treating cold sores, or need to talk to one of our pharmacists, please call us at (250) 494-0531.
Need a prescription refill?
Call us for your prescription refills and we will notify you when your prescription is ready at the store for counter pickups. After ordering your medications, take advantage of our delivery service. We deliver locally throughout Summerland. All of our staff, including our delivery drivers, adhere to current COVID procedures to keep you safe.