Fed Up With Fever Blisters?
If you get fever blisters as I do, you know only too well how hideous they are. You begin to feel the tingling, and you know that you are in for days of pain and an embarrassing honker hanging out for all the world to see.
Granted, there's never a good time for a cold sore . . . but it never seems to fail that an outbreak coincides with something important: a first date, an interview, a vacation, a family reunion, or a class reunion.
I've been getting these awful creatures for 40 years now. Over the past four decades, I've tried anything and everything to stop them, keep them at bay, and obliterate them as quickly as possible. Some fever blister remedies have helped a little, some a lot, and some have been a waste of time and money.
If you are as fed up as I became, read on. Through trial and error, I've come across an inexpensive, nonprescription medication that gets rid of my fever blisters very quickly.
A Primer on Fever Blisters, Also Known as Cold Sores
There seems to be a stigma surrounding fever blisters, most likely because they are caused by the herpes family of viruses. Herpes simplex, type 1 (HSV 1), is the kind that causes oral herpes. It's a different strain from herpes simplex 2 (HSV 2), the kind that causes genital herpes. Just because I have HSV 1, it does NOT mean I have HSV 2! In fact, I don't, in fact—nor do many sufferers of the oral type.
So quit staring, quit being afraid, and quit judging. Many of us contracted this virus in childhood through a family member with HSV 1. We aren't promiscuous, sexual deviants. We have a lifelong virus that happens to reside in our central nervous systems, just waiting for our immune systems to break down.
The majority of people with HSV 2 got it from others who also have HSV 2. Oral herpes CAN cause an infection of genital herpes, however.
The nasty virus that causes fever blisters lies dormant in our central nervous system, more specifically, the brain. During an immune breakdown, it travels down your cranial nerves and causes the blisters you see on, around, and sometimes even IN your mouth. These blisters are actually your immune system's response to fighting off the virus. And, it's clearly not an attractive response—much like the unattractive phlegm we produce when suffering from the common cold.
How to Get Rid of a Fever Blister Fast With an OTC Medicine
My mother, grandmother, and I have all suffered from these oral outbreaks. I started getting them when I was 5. My mother would douse them in medicated Blistex. In my grandmother's adult years, she began getting them, too. She swore that putting rubbing alcohol on them at the very first sign of the tickly twinge would help reduce their severity. This was quite the opposite of the treatment I'd been using for many years. I was actually keeping mine moisturized! I did find the rubbing alcohol helped somewhat, but I was determined to improve upon this home remedy.
I'm pretty sure I can't name all the different products, concoctions, and downright crazy remedies I've tried over the years. I would have done anything in high school to reduce their frequency and shrink their enormity! Let me share with you what actually works . . . or works in my case. We are all different, so different treatments might work better for some than others.
First, let me say that my grandmother was right: you always need to catch the little buggers when they first begin in what's called the prodromal stage. The first sign of impending doom is often that characteristic itchy tingle. THIS is the time to act—and act fast. Always carry your preferred method of treatment with you or keep it in your car.
Best Methods for Treatment
How does it work on the herpes virus? The active ingredient in Bactine is Benzalkonium Chloride 0.13%, the exact same ingredient used in the "miracle product" Viroxyn. Bactine is an inexpensive, over-the-counter antiseptic wash used to treat cuts and scrapes. Don't bother buying Viroxyn unless you want to spend way more for the exact same product. The Benzalkonium Chloride in Bactine basically destroys what's called the "lipid coat" on the virus so that the virus is unable to attach to the skin's cells. The herpes virus is enclosed by an envelope of fat that helps the virus enter and invade the cells.
How To Use Bactine
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As mentioned previously, the best way to fight this virus is as quickly as possible. At the first sign of the twinge, tickle, tingle, or pain, apply the Bactine with a cotton ball or cotton swab. I use a cotton swab to avoid spreading the virus as much as possible. You don't want to just glob it on and call it done, though. Apply a decent amount and lightly rub it onto the affected area. Bactine has lidocaine in it, which will numb the skin. Once the skin is numb, begin to rub harder and more vigorously but avoid breaking the skin!
I'm telling you, I've had remarkable results with this treatment! They either don't develop at all or are extremely mild.
It seems my treatments have us taking a walk down memory lane, huh? First, I recommend Bactine, the stuff your mother used to chase after you with after you fell off your bike. Now, zinc oxide—the active ingredient in many diaper rash formulas?! I guess there's something to be said for the good old days, huh?
I'm not just making this stuff up, though. There's actually some scientific evidence the zinc oxide treatment works. A combination of zinc oxide/glycine cream was given to patients in the first 24 hours of herpes simplex 1 symptoms. They applied the cream every 2 hours until either the cold sore had healed or until the span of three weeks had passed. A placebo was given to the control group. The results showed the group applying the zinc oxide/glycine cream had faster healing times than those using the placebo. The ointment also reduced pain, blistering, itching, and tingling. I've found these results to hold true when I've used it myself.
How to Use Zinc Oxide
The bummer is the frequency of application. You need to be putting on the cream every two hours without fail. I recommend using a clean cotton swab for application. Never use the same cotton swab to treat multiple areas, or you risk spreading the virus.
This article is an account of my experience with a few specific products to treat a condition. Consult your doctor before starting any medication.
Notes About Abreva
Funny thing, this Abreva stuff is. When it first came out I was thrilled! I purchased it from my drugstore and waited (almost excitedly) for my outbreak. It came (of course), and I was ready with my new panacea, Abreva.
Well, let me say, it worked wonders. In fact, it worked wonders for a few months. It substantially reduced the blistering and the healing time. I thought I'd found my remedy.
Here's where it gets funny—okay, it's not really very funny at all. It just stopped working for me! What the heck? I don't have a good explanation as to why it no longer works for me, but I've done some reading on the subject, and I'm not alone. That's not to say it won't work or continue to work for you, however!
An Ounce of Prevention . . .
- If you have yet to try L-Lysine, do so. It's dramatically reduced the number of cold sores I get. Lysine is one of the nine essential amino acids and seemingly hinders the reproduction of the herpes simplex virus. 3 g per day is recommended for the prevention of fever blisters, and 3 to 9 g per day when you actually have an outbreak.
- Make sure (absolutely sure) to wear sunscreen, especially on your lips. Sun exposure is strongly correlated with an outbreak.
- Keep your treatment with you at all times! Keep it in your purse, ladies. Get a man purse (murse) or something like it, gentlemen. Or, as I previously mentioned, keep it in your car. You must catch it in the prodromal stage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Beth on June 11, 2017:
I was always told to keep my lips moisturized when I got a cold sore so that's always my go-to. I had most of my breakouts as a kid and they just recently started appearing more frequently so I discovered Abreva which just seemed to make the process go by quicker. I told my orthodontist and she prescribed some pills that I only have to take for 2 days. I've been taking them and still applying the abreva and lip balm as usual and hopefully that should do the trick BUT I'm definitely going to take this method into consideration. It seems quicker and more effective. :)
Thea on January 24, 2017:
Abreva never worked for me, it's not worse the money, I using Blistex Medicated Lip Ointment, as soon as I feel tingling coming on I use it, it's the best for me, use it everyday hadn't had one for a long time!
Bobbie on October 09, 2014:
Thanks! I'm suffering horribly right now. .my poor face is covered in fever blisters! I'm going to try the tips you gave before my next outbreak. .I am certain there will be one! Using Abreva..hopefully it will work. ..I truly HATE cold sores :(
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on November 02, 2012:
Cloverleaf- never heard of using lemon balm, thanks for that. Yes, I do know oral can transfer as genital, I make mention of that. Scary stuff these fever blisters. Off to research about the lemon balm!
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on November 02, 2012:
Great hub. Did you know that oral herpes can transfer as genital herpes? While HSV1 is not necessarily an STD, it becomes one when transferred. 80% of Americans have herpes cold sores. Many don't know it, as it still lays dormant. 35% have HSV2.
For people looking for a more natural approach, lemon balm works in just a couple of days, and with continued use, it can stop them from breaking out.