> Herpes Treatment
Herpes is a condition where the body is infected with the herpes simplex
virus. When someone ‘has’ herpes, they can be infected
with either herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) or HSV2. Herpes simplex
virus 1 manifests itself as sores or blisters on or around the lips,
on the chin and in some cases on the nose, tongue and around the eyes.
Herpes simplex virus 2 is commonly refered to as genital herpes. In
rare cases, HSV1 can infect the genital area. For this article, we
will discuss HSV1 and its common blister manifestations on the facial
area – for more information on genital herpes or HSV2, please
read this article on genital herpes.
It is important to understand that HSV1 is very common. It is estimated
that over 80% of all adults in the United States has contracted HSV.
A much smaller percentage actually shows symptoms – a person
can be infected with HSV1 and never get one blister or ‘cold
sore’ as they are commonly called.
When HSV1 is contracted, the virus itself lives under skin, in a dormant
state, residing in the nerve cells. Certain ‘triggers’
(discussed later) can cause the virus to manifest on the skin as a
blister. The purpose of this is for the virus to replicate –
this is commonly called ‘shedding’. When a blister is
present, the chances of spreading the virus to another person is at
it’s greatest. Eventually, the blister goes away and the virus
retreats back to the nerve cells where it moves back to a ‘resting’
or dormant state until it is triggered for replication again.
How can you contract Herpes?
Contracting HSV1 is much easier than many people think. The herpes
virus has evolved to spread quickly and easily through the human population.
Direct contact is the easiest way to contract herpes. Indirect contact
can also spread the virus; for example, if a person with herpes touches
their blister and then touches another person, the virus can easily
spread. Probably the most effective way for the virus to spread however,
is through fomites. Like other viruses such as warts and molluscum
contagiosum, it can live on inanimate objects for a short amount of
time. When someone else touches the object, they can be infected with
the virus. This is why children commonly spread herpes – one
child uses a towel or a utensil and then another child comes along
and uses it. Children also play and touch eachother a lot, making
the spread of HSV1 almost inevitable. As with most viruses, if the
contact is made where there is a wound or the skin is broken, the
chances of contracting the virus is much greater. It is important
to understand that HSV1 can be contracted from someone who is not
As mentioned, having herpes may not lead to any symptoms at all. For
those who do show symptoms, they are all follow a basic cycle. First,
there is a tingling or itchiness on the area where the blister will
eventually erupt. Many people with recurring symptoms are very aware
when they are about to get a blister and treatment measures immediately
(see treatments below). A few hours or days after the tingling starts,
the area will become reddish in color and more sensitive. Again, after
a few hours or even days, the red area will manifest into a blister
– filled with a clear liquid. At this point the area becomes
painful and can be very irritating. Finally, again after a few hours
or a few days, the blister starts to scab over. Eventually, the scab
disappears, leaving a reddish area which in almost all cases, will
return to normal with no permanent scars or discoloration.
These blisters most commonly appear on or around the lips, but can
also manifest on the cheeks, chin, nose and eyes. If the blister is
irritated, it may spread to form other blisters or may coalesce into
one large blister. In extreme cases, the blisters may spread into
the eye area causing other complications. For most people, herpes
symptoms consist of recurring blisters on the lips that do not spread
and are gone from between 3-14 days.
If you believe you have herpes there are many treatment methods available,
although there is no ‘cure’ for herpes. If you are unsure
if you have HSV1 or something else, it is best to consult with a physician
Research has shown that there are certain triggers that may cause
herpes blisters. Research is still not definitive, but tests have
shown that the following triggers will help a cold sore recur more
frequently. Some common triggers are:
Sun Exposure: Exposure to the sun has been shown to cause a higher
frequency of cold sores. Many people who live with HSV1 use UV protectant
lip balm when they go out in the sun. There is some data to suggest
that UV is not the sole cause of the trigger, however using UV protectant
lip balm is perfectly safe and protects your skin.
Stress: Medical scientists now know that stress can cause myriad illnesses
and can lower the immune system. People with HSV1 report a much higher
percentage of breakouts during a time of high stress. Children who
have HSV1 will often get a cold sore during times of stress such as
a family move or around ‘report card’ time.
Lowered Immune System: Breakouts seem to be directly related to the
lowering of the immune system, and, as a result, when a person is
ill they seem to have a much higher chance of suffering from a breakout.
People with immunodeficiency diseases may get multiple breakouts with
very little latency between them.
There are many different treatment methods for herpes breakouts. Some
are more successful than others but usually depend on the individual.
Prescription methods of treatment are now being replaced by natural
treatments. Here are some examples of the various treatment options.
Antiviral medication: prescription antiviral medication has been used
for multiple viral infections, and was the predominant medication
type in the late 20th century. The problem with antiviral medication
is possible side effects and disputes among medical researchers on
their efficacy. Examples of antiviral medication for herpes is valiciclovir,
famciclovir and peniclovir. These antiviral prescriptions are viral
inhibitors or suppressors – they do not cure herpes but minimize
the frequency and magnitude of outbreaks.
Topical HerpesTreatments: aside from oral medication, there are a
number of topical treatments that can be used for herpes outbreaks.
Docosonal is a chemical that bars HSV from passing from the nerve
cells to the skin cells. Docosonal, sold as Abreva, claims to reduce
recovery time by one half if used immediately when an outbreak is
noticed. Although docosonal has been shown to be somewhat beneficial
in reducing healing time, class action lawsuits have been filed refuting
Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid. The use of Lysine in treating
herpes outbreaks was discovered at the end of the 20th century. Studies
do show that taking Lysine orally, everyday, can reduce the frequency
of cold sores. Further, lip balms or topical medication has been shown
in some studies to reduce the healing time of an outbreak.
Natural HerpesTreatment: As with many other skin disorders, natural
treatment is becoming very popular as a viable and effective treatment
option. Free of steroids and side effects, natural treatments, when
used correctly, are now showing exceptional results for reducing outbreak
frequency and duration. Indeed, clinical studies show that many natural
treatments show higher efficacy than prescription or synthetic drugs.
Best of all, natural treatments are always safe and cause no side
There is no easy way to prevent herpes. Many who are infected with
herpes never show symptoms. To prevent yourself or your child from
contracting HSV1, here are a few measures that can be taken:
1. Do not share, or let your child share, towels or linens.
2. Do not share, or let your child share, utensil or any inanimate
objects that will be in contact with the face or mouth area.
3. Wash hands frequently (this is just good sense) and have your child
follow the same routine.
4. If you have herpes, avoid touching any open wounds on another person.
If you have herpes, there is no reason to panic. As mentioned, millions
of people in the United States alone have herpes. Learn to notice
when an outbreak is imminent and deal with it accordingly and quickly.
Try to alleviate stress and always wear sun block when out in the
sun. Living with herpes and using natural aids to combat the virus
is not difficult and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.
American Academy of Dermatology:
International Herpes Management Forum and Journal: