The causative agent for fever blisters is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This virus is infectious and is transmitted from one person to another by saliva; either directly, or by drinking from the same cup, or by skin contact.
Fever blisters (Cold sores) usually appear as clusters of tiny blisters on the lip. About 8 out of 10 people have the virus that causes cold sores, and most people are first infected before they are 10 years old.
After this first infection, the virus remains dormant in the nerves of the face, only becoming active again from time to time. When this happens, fever blisters appear. The virus (HSV-1) can get active again because of a cold or fever.
Stress also can lead to a cold sore breaking out, and that includes mental and emotional stress, as well as dental treatment, illness, trauma to the lips or sun exposure.
HSV-1 also can infect the eyes, the skin of the fingers and the genitals, but most genital herpes infections are caused by herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2).
A fever blister can last from 10 to 14 days, and usually occur in groups. They cause red, swollen, and sore wounds, and commonly form near the mouth or on other areas of the face. They may also appear on the tongue or gums.
Fever blisters (cold sores) may release a clear fluid that scabs after a few days, and during this time, they are most contagious. However, the HSV-1 virus that causes fever blisters can continue to be contagious even when there are no blisters visible.
What Causes Fever Blisters To Appear?
The herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) causes fever blisters (cold sores). The symptoms don’t always appear right away, and the virus can also lie dormant in your system and can recur at any given time.
Generally, it has been observed that an outbreak occurs when your immune system is stressed.
Triggers of Fever Blisters
Certain triggers may reactivate the virus and cause an outbreak. These triggers include:
- hormone fluctuations
- extensive sun exposure
- physical or emotional stress
- injury or trauma
- dental procedures
- whole body illness or infection
- older age
- individuals with organ transplants,
- Menstruation, and
Symptoms and Signs
Some patients experience a “prodrome’. The prodrome typically involves a burning or tingling sensation that precedes the appearance of blisters by a few hours or a day.
As the cold sore develops, the area may become reddened and forms small fluid-filled blisters; several of which may even come together and form one large blister. Fever blisters or cold sores are mild to moderately painful.
When cold sores recur, the blisters stage is usually short-lived, and dry up rapidly, leaving scabs that last anywhere from a day to several days, depending on the severity of the infection.
Home Remedies For Fever Blisters
Studies have shown some essential oils may have antiviral activity against HSV-1, but you’ll need to dilute the essential oils with a carrier oil (vegetable or nut oil).
Essential oils and topical treatments can irritate your skin, so you should always test a small area of the skin first before use, and use a clean cotton swab or pad when applying these essential oils, which helps avoid contamination and re-infection.
Here are some natural home remedies for fever blisters:
Ice can help treat inflammation by reducing blood flow to the area, and also numbs the area so that there’s less pain. This treatment is only temporary and does not affect the virus in any way or promote healing.
To treat fever blisters, wrap an ice pack with a towel or cloth, and place it on the cold sore for at least 5 minutes and no more than 15 minutes. Never apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause significant injury and irritation.
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
‘Melissa officinalis could kill the herpes simplex virus in some cases and affect how the virus attaches to host cells’, a study reported.
To use, apply a cream, ointment, or lip balm containing lemon balm to the affected area several times per day. Continue using the lemon balm for a few days after your sores have healed.
Zinc is an essential mineral that can help wounds heal, and topical zinc may help with cold sores. A 2001 study found that a cream containing zinc oxide and glycine shortened the duration of cold sores compared to a placebo cream, and a more recent study showed that zinc oxide may also have a role in preventing the herpes simplex virus from entering cells.
For topical treatments, you’ll want to apply a zinc oxide cream four times a day, or orally take 22.5 mg twice a day.
On a cellular level, oregano oil is shown to inhibit different viruses, including the herpes virus. However, it’s unclear what doses are needed to provide benefits.
Apply diluted oregano oil to a cotton ball and apply to the affected area, ensuring to repeat several times throughout the day. Continue treatment until your blisters heal completely.
Tea Tree Oil
A review of studies on tea tree oil suggests that it may be a useful antiviral treatment that may also help to speed up the healing process and limit plaque formation.
Use topically by adding diluted tea tree oil to a cotton ball; dab it on the sore spot several times in a day, and continue treatment until your skin is completely healed.
Witch hazel may be effective in fighting the herpes virus and in reducing inflammation, and may also act as an astringent that dries out the area, which may help with healing.
Apply witch hazel (e.g Thayers Organic) directly to the skin using a moistened cotton ball, hold it onto your skin using light pressure for some minutes, and be careful not to rub. Continue use until your skin is fully healed.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
While there may be no evidence for ACV and herpes, research shows that ACV may have anti-infective and antifungal properties. Furthermore, some people report benefits using apple cider vinegar (ACV) for fever blisters.
However, ACV should be used cautiously on wounds given its acidic nature, and potential damage to tissue. It’s also, not recommended for bacterial infections of the skin.
Use a cotton ball and apply diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the affected area several times per day, holding it there for a few minutes at a time. ACV can cause skin irritation.
Things to Avoid
- touching your fever blister
- Using lip balm or other products that touch your mouth again
- sharing utensils, straws, and toothbrushes if you have an open sore
- oral sexual activity with sore present
- alcohol or acidic foods
All these may irritate the sores.