Herpes is a disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is most commonly associated with sexually transmitted disease but this is not always the case. The disease has been documented since the Roman Empire and has even been quoted by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.
- The Different Treatments:
The disease can easily be contracted by coming into contact with oral tissue even if no symptoms exist. The virus then travels through the nerves to the nerves in the brain to await reactivation. The virus wakes up often when your immune system is compromised, such as when you are sick. The virus then travels back through the nerves to the nerve endings on your lips to cause the characteristic herpetic sores, colloquially called cold sores.
Two viruses exist: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The first virus is most commonly found the oral type. The second is most common in the genital type.
Genital herpes, on the other hand, is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Most individuals infected with the virus never exhibit symptoms but those with outbreaks exhibit lesions similar to that of the oral kind. Discharges may also come from the penis or vagina. Associated fever, headache, body weakness, and enlarged lymph nodes have been reported.
Initially, reddish areas will appear due to inflammation and virus replication. Soon after, a fluid-filled blister will show up at the area of redness. The blister then breaks open and this is the most painful phase of the disease. Discharges from the blister weep and must be dried every now and then to prevent infection.
After one to two weeks, the lesions start to crust and heal. The lesion will still be painful for a few days. A reddish area may still remain after and is still infective.
This disease also comes in other forms. It may infect the eye, the brain, the fingers, or even a newborn baby. Infection of the eye can cause blindness. Infection of the brain can cause encephalitis and can lead to coma. Infection of the finger can cause a painful lesion to grow on your fingers. Infection of a newborn baby is the most dangerous as it can be a combination of any of those mentioned above.
- Home-Based Remedies/Personal Care/Natural Options:
After active infection, the virus re-establishes itself deep in the nerves again to resurface at a later time. Identified triggers include sunlight, surgery, and injury to bodily tissues. Other infections such as the flu can also bring about recurrence. Your immune system is lowered and busy fighting the flu virus that it does not have time to defend a recurrence of this ailment. The frequency of recurrence, however, varies from person to person. Some remain without symptoms for the rest of their lives while others have repeated outbreaks every now and then.
This viral disease, like every other disease in the world, has its home remedies. Especially with the less severe form such as the genital and oral form, multiple interventions exist to rid yourself of these sores.
1. Olive Oil:
Olive oil has been used since the time of the Ancient Greeks to moisturize the skin. It is full of in antioxidants and is one of the best home remedies for cold sores. Take a cup of olive oil and heat it along with lavender oil and beeswax. Allow the mixture to cool down. Afterwards, apply the pasty mixture to the infected area.
Echinacea or coneflower is a medicinal plant that has been extensively studied and researched. Although no solid evidence has surfaced as of late, it is purported to enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation, and reduction of pain – all perfect for cold sores. Different parts of the Echinacea plant (flowers, leaves, and roots) are combined to create a fruitful tea. Steep some Echinacea, lemongrass, spearmint, and some honey to create a tea. After sipping this wonderful concoction, you may apply the soaked leaves to the affected area for added comfort.
3. Cold Compress:
The best method to relieve any sort of skin inflammation is a simple cold compress. The coolness provides immediate relief to pain caused by the sores. Get some ice, crush them, and put in an ice bag. Alternatively, put in a plastic bag and wrap it with a cloth. Apply on the sores for a good 10-15 minutes to get rid of itching and swelling. Do not prolong the application for more than 20 minutes as this may damage your skin. Repeat application to the area several times a day or as needed. Be wary though, prolonged exposure to the genital area may cause cold burns and damage the surrounding tissues.
4. Baking Soda:
Bicarbonate of soda is the most versatile household product known to man. It has a multitude of uses from treating diseases, cleaning the home, to cooking pastries. In addition, it is effective in treating cold sores fast. It provides rapid relief to the itchiness and pain caused. Form a paste by applying a little water to baking soda. Dab a cotton ball to the paste and apply it to the affected area. This helps to dry out any moist blisters. Make sure not to re-dip the cotton ball into the paste to avoid contamination. Use a new cotton ball as much as you can.
5. Tea Tree Oil:
This essential oil is a very potent antiseptic. It is being used in the medical industry to treat acne, athlete’s foot, and even to kill penicillin-resistant bacteria. With a cotton ball, apply a bit of tea tree oil to the area. Much like using baking soda, avoid double-dipping. Make sure to not take tea tree oil internally as it is poisonous, only use it topically.
6. Lemon Balm:
Lemon balm, a flower that is completely unrelated to lemons, can be processed to produce highly active antioxidant oil. Not only that, its scent helps to calm our nerves. Purchase loose leaves or in teabags and prepare a tea. Allow it to steep for at least 5 minutes and drink the tea. Use the tea bag and apply it on the affected area to provide further treatment. Alternatively, if you can procure lemon balm tincture, add a few drops of it to a bit of water and use a cotton ball to dab it on the sore. Creams and ointment are also available which you can apply directly to the area. When applying, make sure to use a cotton ball or cotton swab.
Licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce the inflammation of the sore. Not only will it reduce the redness, but also the itchiness and the pain. Licorice’s main ingredient is glycyrrhizin, which has been shown to have some antiviral properties. This will slow down the replication of the virus and limit the spread of the cold sores. You may prepare a tea with licorice and use its teabag after as a compress on the sore. Alternatively, you can obtain licorice extract to which you can apply to the sore with a cotton ball or swab. Be wary however, of excessively taking in licorice extracts as this may have unwanted side effects.
8. Black Tea:
Black tea is rich in compounds called tannins, which are antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Prepare a cup of black tea by steeping the tea bag for at least 5 minutes. Sip the tea and apply the tea bag to the affected area. Leave it on for a couple of minutes and for best results, repeat two to three times a day.
Cornstarch, the main ingredient in baby powder, helps to absorb excess moisture from weeping cold sores. It also reduces itching caused by it. To dry the sores, apply the powder on a cotton ball and dab it to the area. Again, do not double dip. Use another cotton ball when applying to another area to avoid cross-contamination of the cornstarch.
10. Aloe Vera Gel:
Aloe Vera has profound skin rejuvenating properties. Not only does it help to moisturize our skin, it also helps to heal it. It has been shown in several studies to help in alleviating herpetic sores. Obtain a gel of Aloe Vera and dab it on the area with cotton. Alternatively, if you have plants of Aloe Vera at your home, you can cut a leaf and apply the gel oozing out of it to the area.
11. Epsom Salt:
Bathing in Epsom salts has always been relaxing. Various “flavors” are in the market infused with an assortment of aromas. Bathing with the salts helps to reduce pain and itchiness of rashes and sores. Moreover, it helps to dry any weeping sores or blisters. If you are unable to obtain Epsom salts, regular table salt will do, or a dip in the beach as the seawater helps to dry out any open blisters.
Domeboro or Burow’s solution is a liquid solution of aluminum acetate. This preparation has astringent and antibacterial properties, which help to shrink the surrounding tissue of the sore. It also helps with itchiness and swelling caused by poison ivy, poison oak, insect bites, and bruises. If you purchase this in powder form, mix it in water as per the directions on the packet. The solution also comes in an already liquid form. Dab some of the solutions on a cotton ball and apply to the area.
Lysine is an amino acid that has been heavily researched and found to have some benefit to herpes simplex. Dietary sources of lysine include catfish, beef, chicken, lentils, and milk. Lysine creams are also available on the market to which you can apply to the sore.
14. Black Coffee:
Japanese scientists recently found that coffee kills viruses that are embedded in cells. As this disease is being caused by a virus, it is only natural that it dies too from coffee. As much as possible, prepare black coffee – that is no sugar or cream. Allow it to cool and sip. For best results, drink at least twice a day. However, if you are unable to tolerate caffeine, it is highly recommended that you skip this remedy as this may keep you awake through the night.
15. Soap and Warm Water:
Sulfur soap and soap warm water will kill almost any type of microorganism. That is why it is very important for us to wash our hands continuously to prevent the spread of the virus to other parts of our body. We also need to avoid touching the area. Moreover, we need to wash the affected area with soap and water to keep it infection-free. Make sure not to share towels or bathtubs with others while infected.
Goldenseal has traditionally been used to treat stomach conditions. However, it also has cooling properties, like menthol, and anti-itch properties. You can mix it with Echinacea to form a paste and apply it to the affected area. Like the others, use a cotton ball to apply to avoid spreading the virus.
17. Oregano Oil:
Oregano is an ancient herb used throughout the world to treat respiratory conditions. Research and analysis, however, has shown it to have other properties. It has exhibited mild antiviral properties and help to speed up the recovery of sores. You can apply the oil, with the use of a cotton ball, on the area. Again, do not double dip.
18. Manuka Honey:
Manuka honey is honey made from the flowers exclusively of the Manuka tree. Research has shown it to have strong antimicrobial properties. Its major component is methylglyoxal. If you are able to get your hands on this wonderful product of nature, you may apply some honey directly on the sore to give it some relief.
Ginseng is very famous in Asia for having a multitude of uses. Ginseng improves the body’s metabolism, is an aphrodisiac, cures sexual dysfunction, and helps with diabetes. In addition, it is very powerful in improving the immune system, the only fighter that can combat the infection. You can obtain ginseng in ginseng-infused coffees, ginseng teas, and soups.
20. Zinc Supplements:
Zinc is an essential mineral that helps to boost our immune system. It helps to speed up the recovery of injuries. Zinc often comes in the form of tablets or is included already in multivitamins. Take it once a day. Make sure to not exceed 200 milligrams per day as this can cause stomachaches. Moreover, zinc creams such as zinc oxide help to dry up the lesions when applied.
The best way to avoid genital herpes is to avoid sex. The virus is spread inadvertently through bodily fluids or through contact of lesions. Make sure that you partner is cleared first of the lesions and has no outbreaks. Even after lesions have crusted over, the virus can still be active and can still be spread. As much as possible, stick to one partner whom you know is not afflicted with the condition.
22. Loose-fitting Clothing:
The clothing you wear definitely affects the length of time the sores subside. Wearing constrictive clothing reduces the blood flow to the area, thereby making it longer to heal. Thus, wear loose-fitting clothing, which allows for airflow and reduces sweating. Cotton is the best choice for underwear, as is for pants. You will need to keep the sores dry for them to heal quickly. If in case you sweat, make sure to change clothing as soon as you can to prevent lesions from continuously staying moist.
Remember that this ailment can also be caused by stress and a reduced immune system. Make sure to have enough sleep and take it easy. Do some yoga or some meditation. Leave your work at your workplace. Eat a healthy diet and consume at least eight to ten glasses of water a day. Exercise regularly and when sad, seek out your friends to talk and ask for help. Be happy! Long-term stress seems to be most associated with breakouts. Unhappiness with work or with one’s marriage may bring this about.
24. Avoid Contact:
Herpes is highly communicable. If and when you touch it, make sure to wash your hands to avoid spreading it to other parts of the body or to someone else. As much as possible, do not touch the sore as you may inadvertently spread the virus. Hydrogels, medicated plasters, are also useful as they act as a band-aid whilst healing the sores with potent medication.
Several medications are indicated for this disease. Much of these are there to only stop the symptoms from worsening. Some of these are used also to reduce the severity of symptoms, such as pain. There is no cure for viral diseases to this date.
Commonly called as “painkillers”, these medications help with the pain associated with the sores. Medications such as paracetamol/acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are effective in fighting the fever and pain. They are over-the-counter and easy to find in convenience stores and pharmacies. Pop a few pills if you feel the pain is no longer bearable. Just do not overdo it. The maximum dosage of paracetamol is 3,000 milligrams per day.
- Medical Treatments:
26. Topical Anesthetics:
If the pain still is not resolved with analgesics, your physician may prescribe a more potent painkiller. Anesthetics are commonly used during surgery to mask the pain while the surgeon opens you up. There are topical anesthetics that help pain too such as prilocaine, lidocaine, benzocaine, or tetracaine. All you have to do is to smear some of it over the sore to rid yourself of the pain. Make sure to use a cotton ball or swab when applying.
27. Antiviral Drugs:
Sometimes, your physician may prescribe antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir, or penciclovir. Do take note however; these drugs do not kill the virus. They only stop the virus from further replicating, thereby reducing the spread or severity of symptoms. This class of drug has very minimal side effects, often only nausea and a minor headache. Do make sure to take the entire course of medication. Stopping midcourse may cause the virus to replicate again.
Docosanol is a type of alcohol that can be applied to the sores and is as effective as antiviral drugs. It acts by preventing the virus from binding to your cells. It is marketed over-the-counter as Blistex or Abreva. There will be a mild headache and some skin irritation after application so use this in conjunction with an analgesic when possible. Use a cotton ball to dab on the sore and make sure not to double dip. Use another clean cotton ball as needed.
29. Barrier-type Contraceptive Methods:
The most obvious way to prevent contracting a sexually transmitted disease is by using contraception. Condoms are the cheapest form of barrier-type contraception. This creates a physical barrier that does not allow the virus to cross over to the partner.
30. Practice Safe Sex:
As the virus is transmitted also through bodily fluids, by effectively blocking it, there is a much lesser chance of becoming infected. As much as possible, to reduce the chance of being infected, practice safe sex.
This ailment is a dangerous disease. Roughly, 65% of the world’s population is infected with the virus. If you are not careful enough or if you aren’t hygienic enough, you yourself can be infected too. As much as possible, do not share personal articles such as towels, toothbrushes, and underwear. Also, avoid being promiscuous with regard to sex. Know if your partners are infected or not and if unsure, use a condom. This syndrome can easily be avoided when you know what to look for.
If and when you are infected and breakouts occur, rest assured there are many remedies out there you can try. I’ve mentioned several herbal and home remedies that you can try and cited several treatment modalities that your physician may prescribe. Be religious with the treatment scheme if you would like for the symptoms to quickly subside.
Lastly, if you need any emotional support, there exist many support groups that provide information on the syndrome. Because of social stigma, some sufferers choose and remain to be single. These support groups can help you to get through the emotional trauma associated with the syndrome. The groups help patients return to the dating scene by providing dating websites that they can safely express themselves.