Curse of the Cold Sore



I’ve suffered from cold sores quite badly for as long as I can remember. As a child I felt like I had them more often than I didn’t, and they would spread all over my mouth and make me feel like a monster. When I was about eleven they started turning into impetigo every time I got them. Even now, in my mid-twenties, the little blighters still tend to scab over with that tell-tale impetigo yellow and I always have a tube of fucidin (antibiotic cream) in my handbag for instant application.



Over the years I have come up with several techniques for hiding cold sores in photos, most involve holding a novelty item or a pet in front of the afflicted area.

I have never suffered from acne or spot breakouts but I would put forward that cold sores are much worse than either. Firstly, non-sufferers find them disgusting. They are contagious and pus-filled and a cousin of an STI. They aren’t considered a fact of life like acne. You can’t cover them with make-up, they just sit there in their scabby, red glory for the whole wide world to gawp at. You can’t kiss anyone, and during a cold sore breakout you probably feel fluey and run down (another lovely side effect) and the one thing you want is a kiss and a cuddle to make you feel less disgusting. They hurt when they’re in the blister phase and then they shrink and scab over and your lip shrinks under the scab and you can’t smile or laugh and every night when you go to sleep you must spend the whole night grinning because each morning without fail you wake up and your lip has split and the whole healing process has to start again. If that isn’t enough, once one starts healing another one – spread from the first – pops up on the opposite lip and the entire hellish cycle starts again.

You can probably tell that I feel quite passionately about this. I honestly do. They are the bain of my life. I know that if cold sores are my biggest problem I have things pretty good, but let’s just indulge me for a few more moments.

As I have gotten older I tend to get them less and less frequently and I’d like to share some of my tips and findings with any fellow sufferers out there. If you have any tips of your own I’d love if you’d share them in the comments section below, I’m always looking for new remedies.

1)      Know what your triggers are. My triggers are: season and weather changes, long train, car or aeroplane journeys (because of the recycled, dry air), wearing lipstick, illness, stress, that particular time of the month and poor diet. That may seem like a lot of triggers but they don’t all always produce a cold sore. Sometimes that’s because I take preventative measures (like when I know I’m going on a plane) and sometimes it’s because I’m in really good health and my body can handle fighting the cold sore off. Once you know your triggers you can try to avoid them or put measures in place that will help reduce the likeliness of a cold sore appearing.

2)      Don’t use too much lip balm. I hardly use any lip balm at all these days. I went to a talk from a skincare expert and he said lip balm is excellent for an immediate moisture boost but it coats the lips in a film that creates a barrier to air which is a bad thing (I don’t know the science of it). So whilst lip balm is excellent for using for short periods, like on a plane or train, when you want to super-hydrate your lips, it’s actually much better to moisturise them on a daily basis with a rich night cream or hand cream which is going to sink into them instead. I swear by this, my lips have been well moisturised and cold sore incidents have been reduced since I started doing it.

3)      If you do use lip balm, I recommend this one. I think you can get it in the UK now, you can certainly buy it on Ebay and Amazon, and before I started doing almost all my shopping online (about 5 years ago) you could pick it up in Tesco too. When I was a child my auntie worked on the QE2 and she brought me some of this back from some far flung place and it was the only thing that would sooth my poor cold sore covered lips. It speeds up the healing of cold sores and it also prevents them occurring.

4)      I don’t use zovirax or anything like that. In my experience, it doesn’t really do anything. It might speed things up a tiny bit, but for me, personally, it has never prevented a cold sore from cropping up even when applied at the dread-inflicting ‘first tingle’. It’s expensive and I worry that in using it I’ll develop an immunity to it which causes me to experience tougher bouts of cold sores. That might sound paranoid, but to me the results don’t counteract the potential risk. Most of my cold sores tend to appear overnight as well, so cures like this are pretty much redundant for me. Besides, I think it’s much better to prevent a cold sore by eating right and keeping your lips moisturised than to use a cream or pharmacy cure.

5)      Compeed Cold Sore Patches. This is one gimmicky product that I do find beneficial. The marketing says they are invisible and easily covered by make-up. This is very far from true in my experience. They are however brilliant for sticking over a cold sore overnight, or for a few hours whilst you’re in the house not seeing anyone. I’ve put them on at the tingle stage and cold sores have still popped up regardless but when applied to a fresh blister they can really speed up the healing process and the scab stage can be either completely missed or at the very least significantly reduced. They keep the site of the cold sore moist which reduces splitting and I find them the best thing for stopping the cold sores spreading on my own lips (which is a real problem for me).

I’m writing this at the near end of a cold sore breakout. Last week I went on a train and afterwards I felt sort of run down, like clockwork on Monday morning I woke up with a cold sore (despite having caked my lips in lip balm for the whole journey). It’s been an angry one and since I couldn’t find my Compeed patches I just let it run itself into the ground. Sometimes the best thing to do is just let it dry out. Not in this case. In this case some Compeed patches and Blistex would have worked a treat. Whilst the cold sore itself wasn’t that noticeable it has been scabbing and splitting and bleeding since Wednesday and I am just sick of it.

In future I shall take my own advice, and you should too!


3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Monday Blues Banishers | Girl With Fringe

  2. God I feel your pain. I suffer so badly with them too and at the moment two under my nose have turned into impertigo, which has spread all over my face. I totally agree about the compeed patches but one other thing I do find helps dry the fuckers up is tea tree oil. X

    • I’ve never tried or even considered tea tree oil but thanks so much for the tip – I’m always looking out for new cures and treatments to make my face suitable for public viewing!!


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