Tuesday, December 22, 2009

True Medical Confessions

Hey, so guess what? I have a major issue with cold sores.

Here's why I'm sharing this with you: because both my primary doctor and Dr. Google tell me that cold sores--which, yes, are just a polite term for oral herpes--are actually really common. Since I've been doing battle with this condition for over a year now, and am really hoping to avoid dealing with it on my wedding day, I thought it might help those of you who are similarly afflicted if I shared my tips on avoiding those dreaded outbreaks.

From what I can tell, the cold sores I get are actually pretty mild--they're usually just a small bubble on my lower lip. I'm lucky in that respect. However, for about six months after I had my first outbreak, I got a sore every single month. It drove me nuts, both because of the unsightliness of the sores and the discomfort they caused. By now, though, I think I've got the outbreaks mostly kicked (knock on wood). If you, like me, have cold sores that are the bane of your existence, I can offer you some suggestions. Keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor; these tips are only drawn from my personal experience!

First and foremost: learn to recognize when a blister is on its way. It took me a looooong time to pay attention to my body and notice the warning signs. Once you have a cold sore, it's not easy to make it go away. You can do things that will clear it up a little faster, but for the most part, you're staying, for several days, in Herpes City. So learn to cut it off at the pass. If I notice a sharp pain pinpointed in one spot on my bottom lip, or if I feel a little bump, I am now very proactive about treating it before it turns into a full-blown blister. Which leads me to.....

Arm yourself with treatments that work for you. I have three things that I always have in stock to help head off the cold sores.

Treatment #1: Valtrex


This is a prescription medication that shortens the duration of outbreaks. You can't ever cure or rid yourself of the virus that causes them, but Valtrex helps it become dormant (i.e. stop screwing up your pretty lips) faster.

Treatment #2: Abreva


This is an over-the-counter medicated lip balm that is very, very, very helpful for me in preventing the early twinges of a blister from becoming a full-blown outbreak. As soon as I notice that little pain or bump, I start slathering this stuff on the spot. It really works. It also helps to shorten the duration of the outbreak if you don't catch it fast enough.

Treatment #3: Neosporin Lip Treatment


I use this stuff for the pain the sores cause, which tends to be anywhere from "annoying twinge" to "sudden, searing pain that makes my eyes water." This lip balm numbs the pain very effectively.

Drink lots of water. I have no idea if this actually helps. However, after three years of living in the desert of southern Nevada--land of the chronically dehydrated--Mr. Octopus and I both believe that having a glass of water is a magical, restorative cure for everything from sunburns to sinus infections. Now, I just drink a lot of water when anything whatsoever is wrong with me, including cold sores.

Now, I have a few questions for you. What other suggestions do you have for avoiding cold sores on the wedding day? And this is a big one: can anyone recommend a lip balm that actually improves chapped lips, rather than just covering it up for a few hours? Having chapped lips tends to trigger outbreaks for me, and I haven't found anything that REALLY works!

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