Don’t panic. You have treatment options.
First, don’t freak out.
Cold sores are common (most people might not realize that almost half of Americans under the age of 50 have the virus that causes them). Fortunately, cold sores don’t often lead to serious health problems in otherwise healthy adults.
And, even better news: while there’s no cure (i.e. it’s not possible to get rid of the virus), cold sores are treatable with medication.
But, cold sores can cause very real stress and discomfort. Learning more about them and how to treat them can bring you peace of mind and help you feel better sooner.
How do I know if it’s a cold sore?
The Mayo Clinic describes the appearance of cold sores as, “tiny, fluid-filled blisters on and around your lips” often clustered together. The blisters eventually rupture, scab over and then heal without leaving a scar.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re experiencing a breakout for the first time, sores are sometimes accompanied by a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and more.
Some patients feel tingling, itching or burning sensations in the affected area before the blister(s) appear.
If you’re unsure if what you’re seeing is a cold sore, a doctor can help. Doctors can often tell simply by looking at the sore, and can also run tests to verify whether you have the virus.
Could it just be a canker sore?
Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus type 1 (aka HSV-1). Canker sores, on the other hand, are not caused by this virus. A doctor can verify whether you have a canker sore or cold sore.
How did I get it?
Since the virus can lay dormant in your body for years before ever producing a cold sore, it’s impossible to know exactly when or how you got it.
Most people with HSV-1 pick up the virus as children. The virus can be spread by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, and also via skin-to-skin contact.
How do I treat it?
Cold sores generally heal on their own within two to four weeks, but medication is available from the pharmacy to help speed up the healing process and ease pain and itching.
One popular medication is a pill called valacyclovir (the generic version of Valtrex). While valacyclovir can’t get rid of the virus that causes cold sores, it can help treat the severity and length of cold sore outbreaks. Valacyclovir can also be used to treat genital herpes, shingles and (for children) chickenpox.
Telemedicine — or, seeing a doctor virtually via phone, video or online chat — can be an affordable and accessible way to get treatment for cold sores. Blink offers access to a telemedicine consultation for only $5; just add a consultation onto your order during the checkout process.
And if your doctor prescribes valacyclovir, make sure you’re getting the best price. Check Blink to see how much you can expect to pay at a pharmacy near you or by getting your medication delivered to your home for free.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 233 Spring Street, 8th Floor East, New York, NY 10013, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com