Treatment is essentially a way to alleviate discomfort or pain and help to reduce the healing time, and potentially limit the amount of recurring outbreaks in the future. Once a person is infected with HSV, there is no available means to cure this virus.
The nature of an outbreak is not debilitating and generally, blisters and sores resolve and heal on their own within a matter of days, and if severe, up to several weeks. Your doctor will, however, recommend medications to help clear an outbreak which also helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others while active in your body.
Medications are also helpful in reducing the frequency of future outbreaks and their severity too.
Your doctor may prescribe medications in oral form (pills) or applied lotions and creams. Your doctor will likely recommend a cream that contains either acyclovir or penciclovir to treat an infection. These are best applied at the beginning stages of an outbreak, before a blister surfaces on the skin. These creams usually require application up to 5 times a day for at least 4 to 5 days. If the outbreak is severe, your doctor will consider administering antiviral medications to help alleviate symptoms. He or she may also recommend painkillers containing paracetamol in either pill or liquid form to provide relief.
Your doctor may also recommend the following treatment to ease discomfort while you heal:
- Apply a cool compress or cool damp cloth on the affected areas to help reduce redness and inflammation. This also helps to promote healing once the blisters have crusted over.
- Apply over-the-counter old sore ointments, as well as pain-relieving creams with lidocaine or benzocaine. These can be applied frequently for relief and also shorten the outbreak considerably. Some over-the-counter lotions may also contain drying agents, such as alcohol which can help speed up the healing process as well. These may not speed up the healing process necessarily, but certainly provide some relief from the discomfort (pain, itching and dryness) of an outbreak. If your doctor doesn’t recommend anything specific, chat to your pharmacist for assistance in choosing one that will help. All creams should be dabbed onto blisters or sores and not rubbed on the affected areas. Your doctor will also advise that you wash your hands each time you apply or touch an infected area (to curb the spread of infection). You will also be advised not to share any ointments with anyone else for the same reason.
- Use a lip balm or cream with zinc oxide which offers sun protection (sunlight exposure can trigger outbreaks), and keeps your lips moist. For added moisture, if your lips become particularly dry, you can also apply a good moisturising cream.
For those who have compromised or weakened immune systems, treatment will focus on reducing the risk of spreading to other parts of the body. Those who are most at risk are individuals with HIV / AIDS or perhaps being treated with chemotherapy for instance. Infection spreading can result in further physical complications such as in the eye/s, and the brain. Inflammation in these areas can become serious for those with compromised immune systems especially.
To prevent this, doctors will prescribe antiviral medications, and possibly recommend seeing a specialist if symptoms are severe or at high-risk of further complications. Overall treatment will depend on the nature of symptom severity and general medical condition.
Home remedies may include taking zinc, vitamin E and C supplements, or the amino acid L-Lysine (in their tablet or cream form) to prevent and treat cold sores.