About 90% of people will be infected with the HSV-1 virus in their lifetime. This is a form of facial herpes that typically results in cold sores. Because the virus remains dormant in our bodies, flare ups only happen here and there, but when they do, they can cause embarrassment, and pain. Typical cold sores will go away in about two weeks. However, sometimes cold sores can become infected. Knowing how to heal an infected cold sore is important when it comes to getting relief, and shortening the healing time.
Think of an infected cold sore as you might any other infected wound on your body. If you cut your hand, for example, you have to take the proper treatment methods to cure an infection. Infections are known to spread, and cause more harmful health issues.
So, healing an infection should be a top priority if it happens. Let’s dive deeper into what you should be looking for. Cold sores can be unsightly on their own. But, having an infected sore will likely be even more noticeable.
What Is an Infected Cold Sore?
Flare ups typically occur due to some type of trigger. This can be anything from stress, to fatigue, to illness. When the immune system is compromised or weakened in any way, it creates a perfect environment for the virus to ‘take over.’ Then, cold sores can slip in and appear. Unfortunately, that can wreak havoc on your mouth/lips.
A cold sore will typically appear on the lips or nasal area. It will start out with the appearance of a blister, and can look dry at first. However, they tend to burst within a few days, which is when the real problems occur.
It is in this blistering stage that infection can occur, since the sore is essentially ‘open.’ There is fluid within the blister itself. If any type of bacteria is able to get into that fluid, it can cause an infection. Once one of these blisters has burst, keeping it clean is the most important thing you can do in order to reduce your risk of an infection. You’ll likely notice the infection, as it will make the cold sore look much worse: More redness, more bleeding, and growth of the sore itself.
Though it may not be completely realistic to avoid bursting your cold sore, there are a few preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk.
- Try to avoid eating crunchy, or hard foods. They can cause you to open your mouth wide enough to stretch, and pull at the blister. This can cause it to open.
- Washing the area thoroughly can also help when it comes to stopping infection before it starts. We touch our faces multiple times a day, and having the virus on your fingers could trigger an infection.
- Don’t cover up a cold sore with makeup. Something like foundation, or another kind of make up might seem like a good idea for hiding it. But, the makeup itself can actually seep into the skin, and cause infection. Instead, use a medicated patch.
The best thing you can do if you discover a cold sore blister is to keep it clean, and stay healthy. However, if you have a cold sore that has already become infected, there are a few treatment options to consider.
Treating an Infected Cold Sore
If you already have a cold sore infection, the best thing you can do is see your doctor. An antibiotic may be needed to treat the infection. Keep in mind, this won’t ‘cure’ your actual cold sore. But, it will help to get rid of the infection, so the cold sore can then properly heal. An antibiotic should continue to be used throughout the duration of your cold sore. This will keep the infection from possibly returning.
Another all-natural option is to use tea tree oil for the infection. Tea tree oil has incredible healing properties. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. So, not only will tea tree oil help to stop the infection, but it may also help your cold sore to heal faster. There are other essential oils that may be effective in healing, as well, but tea tree oil is the most potent. Plus, because it’s all natural, there are no negative side effects.
Again, the best way to heal an infected cold sore is to try avoiding them from the start. But, if you already have an infected sore, and are using one of the treatment options above, there is one more thing to keep in mind: Spreading. It’s so easy to spread HSV-1 to begin with. An infection only makes it easier to cause problems.
It starts with being aware of what you’re touching. Touching an exposed infection, and then touching another part of your body can cause it to spread. Additionally, you’re risking exposure for everyone (and everything) you come in contact with. Washing your hands multiple times a day is extremely important. This can help to make sure you’re killing possible bacteria on your hands and fingers.
You can also ‘cover’ your sore and infection with a bit of petroleum jelly. It will help to seal the cold sore, so it’s not exposed to spreading. It will also help to keep the area moisturized, which can aid in the healing process.
Contracting an infection in a cold sore is rare. Cold sores on their own can be a pain. Once they burst open, they are quick to scab and crust over. When that happens, any immediate danger of infection reduces greatly. As long as you take the time to keep the affected area clean, your risk of getting an infected cold sore is low.