Contrary to the name, cold sores are actually not weather related. So don’t blame the cold or winter because the virus that causes fever blisters isn’t the same as a flu. These awful little – painful skin lesions – develop due to the herpes simplex infection and are transmittable through simple skin-to-skin contact.
What Are Cold Sores?
Also known as fever blisters, cold sores are red, tiny fluid filled blisters or lesions that form near the mouth, cheeks and several other areas of the face. They are usually found in clumps and clusters on areas like the lips, chin, nostrils, and in more rare cases, on gums and the roof of the mouth.
Typically, the blisters break into a painful, burning sensation before bursting and crusting over. They may even break and ooze into scabs, but they tend to eventually fall off revealing new skin underneath.
The most common cause of cold sores is the Herpes Simplex Virus, but there are other risk factors. In the US alone, an average of 70% of the entire population has oral herpes, making them prone to bouts of cold sores. The sores are highly contagious even when not visible and can spread from one person to another through close contact and kissing.
Currently, there is no cure for cold sores or an HSV infection – the fever blisters could return at any moment without warning. However, there are certain things you can do to heal the sores quicker, and reduce the severity and frequency of the attacks.
What Causes Cold Sores?
Cold sores are usually caused by the two types of Herpes Simplex Virus – HSV-1 and HSV-2. These are highly contagious viruses transmitted easily via close contact. Once it enters the body, the virus can remain inactive for a long time but can be activated anytime by a trigger to form a cold sore.
Some people are carriers of the virus but will never show symptoms. However, the virus still spreads even when cold sores aren’t visible. You could get HSV by coming in direct contact with infected people through kissing, sharing cosmetics, food, and even through oral sex.
Common causes or triggers that could bring on cold sores include anything that affects your immune system. They don’t call them fever blisters for nothing; people are more susceptible to cold sore outbreaks when their immune system is compromised.
Factors like stress and fatigue can also zap the immune system and leave you open to cold sore attacks. Excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun has also been known to damage the skin and trigger cold sores. So, how long does a typical cold sore attack last?
How Long Does A Cold Sore Last?
Although every case of cold sores is different depending on the type and severity of the infection, the sores tend to last anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks. During this time, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms.
- Tingling, itching sensation around the lips and mouth for a few days
- Small, fluid filled blister-like lesions along the outer border of the lips
- Cold sores may spread to the nose, cheeks, inside the mouth and even on fingers
- Blisters may merge and then burst into oozing sores
- Higher body temperature / fever
- Painful eroded gums mouth and tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nausea and headaches
- Scabs that dry and fall off revealing new skin underneath
Facts About Cold Sores
The two images below show 16 facts about cold sores.
Are Essential Oils Effective For Cold Sores?
The simple answer is – Yes. Various studies have shown that essential oils are highly beneficial and effective when it comes to treating most aspects of a cold sore.
For starters, essential oils have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antifungal properties that can all be used to help maintain a clean environment. Used correctly, essential oils not only help to prevent infections, but also treat latent symptoms.
Another way that essential oils help with cold sores is by blocking out the harmful rays of the sun while still moisturizing your skin. This will really help, especially for people whose cold sores are triggered by sunlight.
Essential oils also help rejuvenate the skin and restore it to its original form – much better than using skincare laden with chemicals. But that’s not all – cases of fever blisters triggered by stress could be helped by a bit of Aromatherapy.
Risks And Considerations When Using Essential Oils For Cold Sores
It’s important to have a solid understanding of the risks involved before using essential oils. Sure, they are natural and stand on the golden standards of zero side effects. But anything used in excess can have negative outcomes.
One crucial piece of intel you always have to remember is that essential oils are highly concentrated; using them without proper dilution rates could have some unwanted effects.
Some people may experience skin irritation and even burning, especially when using the ‘hot’ oils. If you notice any redness, hives, itching, or an allergic reaction, stop using the oils immediately. You could also check the dilution – the recommended rate is 1 ounce of carrier oil for every 15-20 drops of essential oil.
6 Best Essential Oils For Cold Sores / Fever Blisters
I’ve compiled the list of the 6 best essential oils are able to get rid of this viral infection overnight.
1. Tea Tree
Extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, there’s a very good reason why Tea Tree is the best essential oil for healing fever blisters. Tea tree is packed with anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antiviral properties that all work to accelerate the healing process of cold sores. According to a 2001 study, researchers working to determine the effectiveness of Tea Tree against cold sores found that the triggers and symptoms were drastically reduced.
Putting Tea Tree oil on fever blister works as a natural remedy which not only inhibits the spread of the virus, but also shortens the healing time significantly. That’s why it’s been used in the past as a natural antiseptic to heal various skin conditions including skin tags, lice, acne, athlete’s foot, ringworm, dandruff, toenail fungus, burns, stings, cuts and many more. All the oils’ properties come together to keep the area around the mouth sterile, and help dry out the sores faster.
So, where can tea tree oil be safely applied for cold sores? The good news is that most essential oils can be applied to most areas of your body. However, you should avoid locations such as your eyes and in your mouth for topical applications.
As a rule of thumb, stick to skin covered areas and avoid open wounds. If you can catch the cold sores at the early stages before they break out, chances of stemming the attack are much higher. To use Tea Tree, you can mix a few drops of the oil with 1 tsp olive oil and soak a cotton ball inside. Swab the cold sores twice a day and be sure to throw away each swab after use to avoid re-infection.
Popularly known for its pleasant aroma and unrivaled cooling properties, Peppermint is a very helpful ally in the battle against cold sores. According to studies done, peppermint is loaded with an array of powerful antiviral, analgesic and antioxidant properties that could all be exploited to treat fever blisters. Researchers also found out that peppermint essential oil demonstrated potent virucidal activity against both types of the HSV virus.
In fact, just a few hours after application, antiviral activity around the applied area was seen to be as high as 98 percent. In addition to eliminating the virus and keeping it from spreading, peppermint also has a secret ingredient that helps with the uncomfortable symptoms of cold sores. Thanks to its analgesic and cooling properties, peppermint EO has the ability to ease the pain, itching, and burning sensation that comes with some types of cold sores.
Extracted from the dried up flower buds of the clove, Clove essential oil is ripe with an array of medicinal properties including the innate ability to relieve pain. But that’s just a small part of what clove oil can do. Ancient civilizations often used a raw extract of the plant to treat toothaches, headaches, asthma, blood impurities, and a myriad of skin disorders.
Studies done on clove oil show that it can help reduce the pain, severity and frequency of cold sore attacks thanks to its antimicrobial and antiviral effects. But what makes it unique for our list here is that it can help boost the immune system to prevent fever blister attacks caused by auto-immune disorders.
As a bonus, Clove oil is known to have aphrodisiac properties that could help you in your next aromatherapy session.
You’re probably wondering what lavender is doing on a list for cold sores. I mean, it doesn’t have any antiviral properties, does it? Well, it’s true that Lavender won’t have a direct effect on the HSV virus, but there is another way its properties become invaluable. For one, you may already be familiar with Lavender’s ability to calm both mind and body.
These calming and relaxing properties of lavender essential oil are exactly what you need to avoid triggers for cold sores such as stress. Some studies also show that lavender has mild anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce pain and inflammation. Depending on how you use it, the oil could help reduce the size of fever blisters on your face and also speed up the healing and recovery process.
Introducing one of the oldest and most well-known essential oils, Frankincense is a tree resin that has been used since time immemorial for its various benefits. Frankincense boasts of cosmetic, medicinal, aromatic and spiritual applications. Just using it around the house is enough to offer aromatherapy thanks to its fragrance and captivating aroma. This aroma is grounding, relaxing and calming all without any need for sedation.
When it comes to cold sores, Frankincense seems to posses almost all the constituents needed to both treat and prevent the condition. These include Limonene, Pinene, Cymene, Verbenone among others. These allow the essential oil to promote cellular function and help fever blisters heal much faster than if left alone. Frankincense also has antimicrobial properties which help with any skin infections, and leaves the skin looking and feeling rejuvenated after a nasty ordeal with cold sores.
6. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa) is a herb in the mint family and the essential oil has potent antioxidant properties. And this here essential oil might just be exactly what you need to beat the blisters once and for all.
Research shows that Lemon Balm essential oil is effective in killing off the earlier stages of the herpes simplex virus. So if you feel a tingle coming on and already know that you are prone to getting cold sores, then applying a few drops of diluted Melissa oil should help stem the spread of the sores.
8 Essential Oil Recipes For Cold Sore / Fever Blister Treatment
Recipe 1-4: Simple DIY Recipes For Cold Sores
1. Recipe To Stop The Cold Sore Outbreak
As soon as the first symptom of a cold sore is seen, apply 2 drops of Tea Tree essential oil diluted in 1 teaspoon of Sweet Almond oil on the impacted area a couple of times a day. If the pain is not bearable, add 1 drop of Lavender oil to the blend before application.
2. Using Geranium Essential Oil
Take one drop of Geranium essential oil on a water soaked cotton bud and apply on the impacted area. Repeat up to 3 times daily.
3. Using Tea Tree Oil
Mix 4 drops of Tea Tree essential oil with 1 tablespoon of Coconut or Olive oil. Dip a cotton swab in the mix, and apply straight to the affected area. Reapply up to 3 times everyday until you get rid of it.
4. Recipe To Prevent Cold Sores From Getting Worse
In order to prevent cold sores from getting worse, dilute any one of following essential oils with a carrier oil of your choice: Clove, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Melissa, Frankincense or Roman Chamomile.
Mix 5 drops essential oil in 5 ml carrier oil (Jojoba, Olive, etc). Blend well and apply around the cold sore using a cotton-tip applicator. Incorporating nutritional supplements like Zinc can also help you avoid further breakouts.
Recipe 5-8: Essential Oil Blends For Cold Sores
5. Synergistic Blend For Fever Blisters
- 5 drops Lavender
- 8 drops Tea Tree
- 6 drops Chamomile
- 3 drops Lemon
- 8 drops Geranium
- 2 oz. sweet almond oil
Combine the above-mentioned essential oils together in 2 oz. sweet almond oil.
How to Use
Take one to two drops of the mix on a Q-Tip or cotton ball soaked in water. Apply this blend directly on the cold sore daily for fast and long-lasting results.
6. Cold Sores Recipe For Immediate Relief
- 3 drops Frankincense
- 4 drops Geranium
- 3 drops Eucalyptus
- 2 drops Tea Tree Oil
- 4 drops Lemon Balm (Melissa)
- 1 oz. Coconut oil
Mix the ingredients and dilute in coconut oil.
How to Use
Apply the blend directly on the cold sores you have.
7. Essential Oil Capsules
- 10 empty gel capsules (size 00)
- 1 drop Peppermint
- 1 drop Oregano
- Olive oil
Mix all the essential oils and add in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
How to Use
Split the capsule into two and slowly pour the blend you have prepared. Thereafter, close the capsule. Take 1 capsule a day for 10 days for cold sore relief.
8. Recipe For Cold Sores In Babies
You will need
- 2 tsp Sweet Almond oil
- 1 drop Roman Chamomile
- 1 drop Lavender
- 1 small jar with restricted cap
- A Q-tip to apply the blend
How to Use
Mix the ingredients well. Drop the Q-tip into the blend you have prepared and apply on the cold sore. It is likely that the cold sore will go in an hour. However, if this doesn’t happen, apply a second coat.
Cold Sores vs Canker Sores
In the world of self diagnosis, no two conditions have confused people more than these two here. Cold sores may often be confused with canker sores, but these are two very different ailments with their own characteristics. Below is a quick description that should help you distinguish between a canker vs cold sore.
- Caused by the two types of Herpes Simplex Virus
- Typically develop on the outside of the mouth, along the outer border or edge of the lips
- Appear as reddish, blister like lesions that tend to ooze and crust over in days
- Remain highly contagious at least until the lesions crust and heal fully
- Tend to heal within 7-10 days
- Often triggered by stress and sunlight
- Caused by autoimmune disorders, immune surprising viruses and auto-inflammatory disorders
- Develop under the tongue, base of the gums and soft tissues inside the lips and cheeks
- Appear as round spots with a yellow or whitish centre and red borders
- Are not contagious at all
- Generally heal within a period of 2 weeks
- Wide range of triggers including hormonal changes, food sensitivity, accidental cheek bite
How To Prevent Cold Sores / Fever Blisters
The good news is that fever blisters are absolutely preventable. Even with HSV, prevention is as simple as hygiene 101. However, some prevention measures can be a bit extreme like avoiding skin contact with other people. Sure, you could keep away from everyone, but humans are social beings and skin contact will happen whether you like it or not.
But what you can do is to keep your hands clean at all times. Whether its through the use of soap and water or disinfectants, make sure your hands are clean and that you don’t touch your face all the time.
Another measure you could take is to avoid kissing people, especially when an outbreak is visible. So next time you’re “frenching” someone, you might want to keep in mind that cold sores and HSV symptoms don’t need to be present for you to get infected.
One of the key rules of basic hygiene is to keep all personal items exactly that – personal. Unless you’re really asking for it, never share items that come into contact with your mouth or skin. This includes food utensils, lipstick, lip balm, cutlery, spoons, and even towels. Your bff who you share that expensive lipstick with just might be a dominant HSV carrier and you wouldn’t even know it.
And in case you already have the virus, there’s no need to worry. You can actively prevent the cold sores from flaring up. Avoid exposure to too much sunlight when possible and if not, wear sunscreen to protect your face and skin.
Secondly, practice stress management techniques since stress is one of the triggers for cold sores.
And finally, you should also play your part in stemming the infection by protecting the ones you love at all times.
4 Home Remedies For Cold Sores / Fever Blisters
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil remains one of the most powerful ingredients used by people all over the world for thousands of years now. But despite having hundreds of medicinal uses, most people remain unaware of one of the oils specialties – fighting off cold sores. Cold sores are painful, unsightly, and very slow to heal; coconut oil takes care of all these aspects without the chance of any single side effect.
Coconut oil boasts of medium chain triglycerides ripe with antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties. This includes good fats which are fully capable of dissolving the tough outer layer of fever blisters that is usually covered with fungus and bacteria.
Once the oil comes in contact with the skin, it becomes even more effective and destroys invaders from deep within the skin. What’s more, coconut oil helps strengthen your immune system so you can beat the blisters naturally.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
It would seem that apple cider vinegar is one heck of a universal remedy for almost every single ailment under the sun. Having already used it in some of the essential oil recipes for several skin conditions, it’s only natural that ACV should help with fever blisters as well.
According to a certain board-certified dermatologist, apple cider vinegar is packed with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties that makes it ideal for treating viral infections.
Similarly, ACV is actually slightly more acidic compared to our skin’s natural pH. As a result, it tends to burn when applied directly to the skin. You can use this ability to dry off cold sores faster.
We all know that salt has antimicrobial properties that could help ward off infections against cold sores. So of you don’t have any essential oils handy and definitely don’t want to take a range of pharmaceuticals, there’s a way you could use good old table salt to treat your fever blisters.
Using a clean finger, apply the salt directly to the cold sore and hold for a couple of seconds few times a day. This will help prevent the spread as well as crust over the blisters faster.
4. Change you Toothbrush Often
Did you know that your toothbrush could be the source of all your re-infections? Most people treat cold sores successfully only to have an outbreak a short while later – and it’s all because of using the same toothbrush.
When you have active fever blisters, you toothbrush could harbor the germs and store them even long after you have healed. Using this toothbrush again leaves you at a high chance of getting infected again.
The best thing to do is to throw away this brush and get a new one every few months and especially after an outbreak. It’s better to swap out brushes every once in a while than having to deal with a case of cold sores every few weeks.