The cold sore lifecycle can last for up to two weeks (if left untreated). You’ll have to endure pain, swelling, burning, stinging, tightness, oozing, crusting, scabbing, and itchiness. These are all signs and symptoms of inflammation, which is your body’s natural response to tissue damage.
The good news is that any discomfort can be minimized and the duration of cold sores shortened. The OTC cold sore medicine (and taking action sufficiently early) will determine how long you’ll have to suffer. But, even if a cold sore has reached the blister stage, you can still heal a lot faster.
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As much as you’ll want to rub your blister for some instant relief, you should avoid this temptation. Doing so could open up the blister, spread the virus, and cause additional pain. You’ll also risk cross-contamination, and infecting members of your family, friends, and colleagues.
The primary infection (the first time) is the worst due to the flu-like symptoms. These include the swelling of lymph nodes, tiredness, fatigue, aching, sickness, etc. Recurrent infections (subsequent outbreaks) are unpleasant but are usually less severe. This is because your body knows what to expect, and your immune system will be prepared to fight off the virus.
We’ll now provide an easy-to-digest summary of the symptoms and how long you can expect them to last. You’ll also find some quick tips for speeding up recovery and avoiding problems. Underneath the table, we’ve covered each of the stages in more depth.
|Stage:||Medical Name:||Duration:||Symptoms:||Advice and Tips:|
|1||Tingling (Prodrome)||1-2 Days||Tight, itchy, reddened, and swollen skin||Use an OTC treatment immediately to reduce pain and heal faster|
|2||Blistering||2-4 Days||Cluster of small fluid-filled blisters, red and swollen skin||Never pop blisters. It could spread the infection and lead to scarring. Avoid spicy and salty foods|
|3||Ulceration||1 Day||Open sores with an inflamed red ring||Gently wash the area to remove crusting, reduce viral spreading, and prevent bacterial infection|
|4||Scabbing||2-3 Days||Yellow scab, cracking, bleeding, itching, and burning||Never remove the scab prematurely. Let is flake away on its own|
|5||Healing||2-3 Days||Flaky pink skin and minor swelling||Apply aloe vera to soothe the new skin and help with the healing process|
The first stage of the cold sore life cycle is the tingle stage. Also known as the prodrome stage, it is the calm before the storm. It occurs before any of the more obvious visual symptoms, such as the blister. It is during this stage that initial symptoms begin to come to light.
It is also when immediate action can (and should) be taken to heal faster. The tingle stage typically arises 24 to 48 hours before a blister forms.
Most HSV-1 carriers experience a tingling, burning, throbbing or itching sensation around the lips or corner of the mouth. This location, wherever it is, marks the area of viral transmission. In other words, the area of the tingling is where the virus initially entered your body. Remember the location because that’s where you’ll get cold sores in the future (if you get them more than once).
Although the prodrome is the first sign of activity, it is also the most opportune time to take action. Because a blister has yet to form, you should begin to treat the area that is tingling or throbbing. It’s a clear warning sign.
Cold sores are contagious from the tingle stage. You can transfer the virus to others even if a blister has yet to form. A large percentage of HSV-1 transfers occur during the tingle stage because no visual evidence suggests that there is any reason for concern.
Within days (even hours), the area where you experience the tingling will give way to a blister.
Typically forming in clusters, the blisters, often red in color, are filled with fluid. The size of the blisters that develop will usually depend on the number of herpes virions. While not always the case, a single blister may stand out from the cluster. As the virus begins to multiply, more blisters will form. Every outbreak is different in this regard. No outbreak will ever look exactly alike even though the initial location will never change.
It is essential that you leave your blister alone. Do not tap it, press it, pull it, rub it, etc. Do not let curiosity get the best of you. This could contaminate the sore and lead to infection. This will increase the time that it takes for the area to heal.
HSV-1 is a virus which means that you may experience sickness. Because your body has no record of this virus, you could be in for a tough time of things in the short term. General weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, intense pain at the blister site, and even ear and jaw pain can occur. It is not out of the ordinary to feel as though you are experiencing a severe cold or flu.
Regarded as the most painful stage, the ulceration stage normally occurs 4 or 5 days into an outbreak.
Hallmarked by the bursting of blisters, the ulcer stage is the first step in the healing process. Although you will be most susceptible to infection at this point, due to the exposure of open sores, this is a welcome bridge to cross.
The fluid once contained within the now opened blisters is infected with HSV-1. The last thing you want is for fluid to become trapped within other minor cuts or abrasions around the mouth. This is why the ulcer stage is not only the most painful stage but the most delicate as well.
Once your sores have burst (ruptured), it will only be a matter of hours before the scabbing stage begins. If you can make it through the ulcer stage, you have made positive progress regarding preventing infection, viral spreading and avoiding self-contamination.
Within one week of the outbreak, the scab or scabbing stage occurs. Now that your sore has erupted, a scab will start to form over the exposed area. From a healing standpoint, this is terrific news. However, you must be cautious. Scabs have a natural tendency to cause an itching sensation. You must fight the urge to remove the scab.
Removing the cold sore scab early will slow down your recovery. A scab is a shield of protection that your body creates to heal your damaged skin. It will fall off naturally when the time is right. Any picking or pulling at the scab could delay your healing.
As an important reminder, you are still contagious during the scab stage. It’s not true that you’re no longer contagious once a scab has formed. While the scab will provide a safety net, the virus is still alive under the sore. Even the slightest crack in the scab can lead to a viral transfer. This is why kissing with cold sores, for example, should be off-limits until the complete healing process has taken shape.
Once the scab has flaked away, the problem area will give way to your new skin. Typically occurring ten days after the tingle stage, the healing stage is the sign of complete recovery.
While your skin might be a bit pink or reddish, the viral outbreak is over. At this time your status will return to an inactive stage, and you will no longer be contagious. The herpes simplex virus has reverted to a dormant state. Apply some aloe vera to soothe any skin irritation.
While there is no cure for HSV-1, there is also no guarantee of cold sore recurrence. Everyone is different. Some individuals get cold sores several times in a row while others can go years without any recurrent outbreaks.
The best way to get rid of a cold sore fast is with a tried-and-tested OTC treatment (or a prescription medication). You can expedite the healing process, possibly recovering in as little as three days if you take action during the prodrome (stage one).
The selection pool of treatments is quite expansive. From creams to state-of-the-art light devices, making the right choice may seem overwhelming. If you are unfamiliar with which treatments work, we recommend that you check the feedback from fellow sufferers.
Here are three over-the-counter cold sore medications that work:
The pain is worse during blistering (stage two) and ulceration (stage three). This discomfort is usually most intense during your primary outbreak. Recurrent cold sore infections are still painful but don’t tend to be as severe as your first experience.
Here are four things that will help to quell the pain:
Facing friends and work colleagues when you are in the midst of an outbreak can be quite daunting. It’s made worse if you are required to address people face-to-face in a professional setting or conduct a business presentation.
When your appearance is everything, the presence of a fever blister can result in a host of concerns that go far beyond HSV-1 itself. Do you need a way to disguise your blemish?
Well, you have two options:
Although some outbreaks can be quite aggressive, most cases DON’T require the assistance of a medical professional.
Here are some of the situations where medical attention should be sought:
Up to 80% of the population carries the herpes simplex virus. By following some common sense procedures, you can heal your cold sores faster and reduce the risk of viral transfer to other areas and people.
Do you need a cold sore treatment? These three products worked great for hundreds of people.
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