Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and once you have contracted the virus they can reappear annoyingly. Over 30 million people in the UK are infected with the herpes simplex virus, which can be picked up from a single kiss, and outbreaks of cold sores can vary from as often as once a month to once a year.
Several factors have been identified as common triggers for these outbreaks, including hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle, stress or an impaired immune system from illness or fatigue. Chapped lips from cold weather can also lead to a cold sore outbreak. Sun is also a major trigger.
Rebecca Scott, 32, is a customer services manager and married mother of one from Hemel Hempstead and has suffered from cold sores since she was 16.
“Cold sores have really affected my life in so many ways since my teens.
Nothing the doctors prescribed for me even touched them and I was getting outbreaks almost once a month.
My cold sores even ruined the excitement of the run up to my wedding seven years ago as I was terrified I’d get an outbreak on my wedding day as it was in summer and sun is a sure trigger for an outbreak. It was one of the main things that concerned me before my wedding, which is awful but that is how much they can dominate your life.
I didn’t just get them on my lips, I’d get them on my cheeks. I was getting them as often as once a month. A typical outbreak lasted for 7-10 days so a huge percentage of my time was spent trying to deal with very visible cold sore outbreaks.
I’d get them whenever I was run down, like when I got a cold, if I went out late to a party, if I drank a bit too much. I’d also get them if I went out in the sun.
They made me feel extremely self-conscious as people star at them. I’ve had to harden up to people asking me what is wrong with my face. People have even told me I have food on my face, mistaking my cold sores for some kind of debris.
At one point I had such a bad outbreak that when I went to the doctors for treatment he offered to sign me off work as he felt it would be too hard for me to face people with the cold sores I had.
They effected many aspects of my life aside from work.
With my husband I have to be so careful about kissing or sharing pillows or towels when I have live cold sores as he doesn’t have cold sores. One of our first serious conversations when we met was when I had to explain to him about the fact I had cold sores. Luckily he was really understanding, but not every guy would have been. It’s something I always wished I never had to bring up in relationships but if you are responsible you should always talk about it fairly early on.
I also have to be so careful around my young son. I have to keep my distance from him when I have a live cold sore, which he can’t understand and sometimes it upsets him. It upsets me too.
Another difficult fact about having cold sores is that people get very worried about you being around their babies. They are right as it can be dangerous, but it still feels upsetting.
What’s so depressing about cold sores is that nothing seems to really touch them. I used to get a prescription from the doctor for tablets, but they didn’t really work. In the past I’ve tried tea treat oil, patches, I tried any cream going that was at the chemist. None ever worked. Most of them made my cold sores worse.
So imagine my amazement when three years ago I purchased a simple pot of liquorice lip balm. It was recommended by my Nan as she also gets cold sores and is always reading up on new treatments. It sounded unlikely but this balm virtually stopped my cold sores in their tracks.
At the time I purchased it I’d just found out I had breast cancer and would need chemotherapy. I’m now thankfully clear of cancer but during my chemo I was really worried that having a low immune system would cause me to break out in cold sores. It was the thing I dreaded as it was a time when I needed a lot of emotional support from my husband and family and a lot of hugs and kisses and if I’d had cold sores I’d have felt even more alone and anxious.
But, incredibly, by using the lip balm every day through my chemo I didn’t get a single cold sore. It was miraculous.”
Liquorice lip balm was found to be effective in a double-blind trial, carried out by the Herpes Viruses Association on forty people. It reduced the severity and duration of outbreaks for over 73% of subjects tested and, furthermore, 83% of subjects using the liquorice balm reported experiencing less severe outbreaks than when using their conventional treatments. While using liquorice lip balm, testers reported that on average their outbreaks were only half their normal length.
“In three years of using the lip balm, which included a four-month course of chemotherapy, I have had just a few cold sores, ” says Rebecca. “And when they have come I’ve felt a tingling sensation and a small sore appears, but it never grows or spreads to my cheeks and within 2-3 days it’s gone. People care barely see I have a cold sore if I get one now.
It has changed my life and makes times like Christmas so much more enjoyable for me.
I no longer suffer from anxiety about going to a special occasion or a family gathering in case I’ll have a cold sore.
More importantly is that intimacy with my husband is no longer being constantly interrupted which has obviously benefited our marriage.
But best of all is that I can hold my son and interact with him without having to worry, that means the world to me.”