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Mouth sore basics: How to prevent, treat and conceal

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

How to deal with cold sores

Mouth sores -- particularly, cold sores -- afflict millions of people. Don’t let them get you down: Learn how to prevent, treat and conceal your next mouth sore outbreak.

Woman with finger on lip

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are downright embarrassing. These unsightly eruptions occur on the lips and surrounding areas and can take up to two weeks to heal.

Symptoms

You can usually tell the cold sore is coming days before it arrives. You may notice:

  • Pain or tingling on the skin, typically around the mouth
  • Small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that erupt a day or two after the pain/tingling begins
  • Breaking and oozing of blisters, followed by a yellow crust
  • Sloughing off of crust

Usually, a cold sore lasts 10 to 14 days and heals without scarring.

Cold sores & canker sores are not the same thing >>

Causes

Strains of the herpes virus cause cold sores, and any number of triggers can cause an outbreak:

  • Fever
  • Menstruation
  • Fatigue
  • Sun exposure
  • Stress
  • Illness or injury

Irritation from dental work can lead to an outbreak, too. So can certain foods, such as nuts, chocolate, sugar and carbonated drinks.

Prevention

You can't prevent cold sores entirely, nor can you cure them -- but you can take steps to reduce their frequency and limit their duration, says Dr. Paul Ganshert, PRC CTS BS DDS:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take a daily vitamin.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Avoid the sun or use sunscreen.
  • Avoid acidic foods and juices.

The 10 Commandments of sunscreen & lip balm >>

Treatment

Cold sores clear up on their own without treatment. They can last for up to two weeks, though, so you'll want some relief from the discomfort. Try:

  • Over-the-counter ointments that contain benzocaine
  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Ice or warm compresses

And hands off! Avoid squeezing or picking cold sore blisters -- and if your hands have touched your cold sores, avoid touching other parts of your body (and other people).

Spend less on pain relievers >>

Concealment

A cold sore doesn't have to send you into hiding. You can conceal the blister while healing it with powerful combo treatments. Products such as Orajel Cold Sore Relief With Concealer relieve pain and speed healing while concealing the cold sore. The Orajel formula camouflages the redness with a green-tinted concealer.

How to conceal a cold sore >>

More beauty & skin tips

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6 Quick beauty fixes for moms on the go
7 Skin crisis solutions for busy moms

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