Doin’ It With Dr. V: Cold Sores
Hi, I’m Dr. V. I’m not a real doctor, I just play one on the Internet. What I am is a lady, a lady who is a fool for love! And I love nothing more than sex. My deepest desires have happily led me on many adventures in the sack, but they have also, sadly, made me one of my gyno’s most valuable players. But I’ve lived to tell the tale(s)! So, from time to time, I will dish the dirt on everything from getting freaky to getting freaked out. Now, let’s get this party started…
As winter sets in, I just wanted to put your mind at ease because the cold sore has a bit of a misleading name. It’s a common misconception that weather more frigid than a nun could cause you to get a cold sore, but ironically, too much sun can actually increase your chances of an outbreak. While cold sores are a type of the herpes simplex virus, they are also called “fever blisters” because having the flu can up the odds of getting one. But alas, stress, hormonal changes — like getting your period, skin injuries, a lowered immune system, and added stress — can also bring it on. But what eggs on a flare up is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the real cause of the problem, the herpes simplex virus. So, here’s everything you need to know about the blister and what you can do with your mister…HOW IT HAPPENED TO ME
I was young and foolish! While that’s probably the explanation for any STD I’ve ever come in contact with, this time, it didn’t even involve sex. Unfortunately, my 6th grade class took a fateful field trip to the planetarium. I got thirsty on the bus ride and took a sip from the foreign exchange student’s water bottle. She had a cold sore, not that I knew what that was — when you’re a kid, you’ve always got something busted on your face. A day later, my lip felt like it was doing the Macarena. Soon after, I had a blister too.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
An estimated 60% of adults in the US have oral herpes or HSV-1. So, as you can see, there’s a whole lot of herpes going around! While there’s no cure, there are plenty of products on the market to help you heal. But it’s hardly a new fangled problem we face — the history of herpes can be traced back all the way too Ancient Greece. Although some believe the virus is as old as time, Hippocrates wrote about the condition and the word “herpes” is Greek for “to creep.” Yup, cold sores are sneaky little bitches that have been surprising people for a centuries.
You can get a cold sore on your lips, chin, nose, neck, gums, the front of your tongue, the inside of your cheeks, your throat, and the roof of your mouth — sheesh! However, most occur on the outside of your kisser. If you see a grey/white blister with a red outline inside your pie hole, that’s a totally a non-contagious canker sore. Now, if you wake up one morning and see a blemish around your lips, don’t panic! Seriously, it can be tender to the touch, but unless it feels funny on its own, it’s just a pimple. The main symptom of an outbreak is a tingling sensation or burning called a prodrome. It’s so irritating, you’ll definitely know when it’s happening and it’s the key signal that lets the person know a blister is on the way! Sometimes, the cold sore can start out as one big honker or as small bumps that merge. So, after a couple days of fuss and puss, the sore will form a scab crust. While it’s still contagious, that’s a sign that you’re healing! In no longer than two weeks, your cold sore will be history. But honey, here’s a tip — once it scabs over, with a little lipstick, it can go completely unnoticed.
WHAT TO DO
Unless you also have a fever, feel confused (not just about if you have a cold sore, but in general), or your eye is also irritated, you don’t need to see a doctor. But if you have any of those rare, yet dangerous, symptoms, take them seriously and see an M.D. ASAP. If you’re not displaying those three symptoms, than the only risk is spreading the infection, so keep your smooching to yourself.
Now, the minute you feel a cold sore attack, hit a drug store to pick up lip balms and topical ointments. My preferred cold sore cocktail is a mix of Carmex lip gloss to take care of the tingling and Abreva to clean up the damage. But rest assured, even if you do nothing, it will go away on it’s own. However, with a little help from my over the counter medicine friends, I find my symptoms less annoying and my recovery time to be shorter.
WHERE I WENT WRONG
Back in the day, when my lip started quivering like I was Elvis in gym class, I freaked out! Then the kids in middle school teased me unmercifully — even more unmercifully than ever — because I had a huge open sore on my face and I was really insecure about it. Sadly, I carried the shame from my first cold sore all the way up through to adulthood.
After landing a sweet interview for a job, with a guy whose work I really admired, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Then, three days before the big meeting, I got a raging cold sore smack in the middle of my mouth — the part I needed the most to sell myself. I nearly canceled. Instead, I wound up pathetically begging a friend of mine who was on a regimen of Valtrex (the genital herpes med) to front me a few pills.
Honestly, no one should never ever take pills that aren’t prescribed to them, but in my case, it helped. While I was grateful for the difference the meds made, it didn’t clear up the whole area in time. So, in an act of desperation, I slapped on some lip liner. I looked tragic, but I thought it was better than walking into the interview with my cold sore exposed! Well, surprise, surprise, the boss man had a cold sore himself and probably wouldn’t have judged me for mine, had I not hid it under a thick layer of red listick. I wound up not getting the job, but I did learn my lesson.
The good news is that each cold sore takes only several days to a couple weeks to clear up. The bad news is, just like that ex-boyfriend you just can’t seem to shake, cold sores will show up randomly and be totally irritating. Once you’re infected with any kind of herpes, the virus just lays in your body dormant. That is, until it starts multiplying, then it’s ready to bust loose! Typically, cold sores are creatures of habit and tend to show up in the same spot. On average, most people will get one to two outbreaks a year. If they come a knocking more than that, you can talk to your doctor about other treatment options, medications like Zovirax®, Valtrex®, and Famvir®, that might be able to help you slash the number of recurrences.
A cold sore can feel like a Scarlet A for your face, but it’s too common and it’s too silly to cause real public shaming. Unless you’re in middle school, you probably won’t get teased. Now, it can be hard to hold your head high when you’ve got a blister on it. As a lady, it’s sad when a typically attractive part of your body, especially those kissable lips, has turned scary lookin’. Don’t let it get you down, the temporary cold sore is not a permanent deal breaker for any dude. Rest assured, in a couple days it will just look like a zit and when it heals completely, shortly there after, you’ll be looking fresh as a daisy — a daisy ready to be plucked!
1. Days Of Our Lives: After infection, a cold sore will usually appear in a couple of days, but it can incubate for up to twelve. Once you cross that threshold, you’re in the clear! Some people are even exposed to the virus, but their bodies are able to completely suppress it and they never even show signs of having it.
2. Hand Out: Autoinoculation is the term for when HSV-1 moves in on another part of your body. Most often, this spreading happens when you have your first cold sore and the virus is shedding. Your immune system isn’t prepared to fight back just yet, but you can by simply washing your hands after touching your face.
3. Type Casting: Cold sores are usually caused by oral herpes, or herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1. HSV type 2 typically causes genital herpes. However, both types can gang up and wreak havoc wherever they are. Herpes just isn’t as discriminating as we women are and it’ll take what it can get. So if you have a cold sore, it’s not safe to engage in oral sex.
4. Sunshine Of Your Love: Too much ultra violet light can trigger HSV-1. Use a lip balm with at least 15 SPF and tan away!
5. Not So Lovely Lady Lumps: In a small percentage of people with HSV-1, a skin condition called erythema nodosum will develop. These painful red bumps will heal naturally in 3-6 weeks. But if you see you doctor, you can get something to clear it up quicker.
6. Ice, Ice Baby: To ease the pain, put an ice pack on your lips. It’ll freeze up the hurt from your cold sore.
Sorry buddy, no kissing and no oral sex. If you can manage to just have sex, then bang a gong and get it on! But cold sores are catchier than Rick Rollin’ and you can get them anywhere on your skin. For example, you can grow a cold sore on your finger just from touching the one on your lip. So, be sure to wash your hands to prevent that kind of hand me down! And remember to be aware of your blister and what it comes in contact with. No sharing utensils, cups, lip gloss, water bottles, etcetera. Still, it is nearly impossible to contract a cold sore from surfaces like toilets, towels and even hot tubs. Contracting a cold sore is all based on skin contact and saliva.