Is it bad to pop cold sores?

August 04, 2022

Is it bad to pop cold sores?
Is it bad to pop cold sores?

Cold sores can be a nuisance. They often show up at the worst possible time. And while it is incredibly tempting to pop the little fever blisters, it does not speed up the healing process. In fact, popping the cold sores can delay healing and cause more serious problems. Here is more information about cold sores and things patients can do to speed up the healing process.


What is a cold sore?

A cold sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1). The infectious virus gets passed from person to person due to close contact and produces small, fluid blisters usually on the lips or around the mouth. While the blisters are present, it is also important to avoid kissing and skin contact with other people. It is advisable to avoid sharing straws, utensils, lip balm, and other personal items. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), once a person contracts the virus it remains in their body. and they will get recurring cold sores throughout the rest of their life. Mouth ulcers are different from cold sores - they are not caused by the herpex simplex virus and they are not contagious.


Triggers for cold sores

Once patients have had an episode of the herpes infection, the virus lies dormant but never goes away completely. Recurring cold sores often appear in response to:

• Stress
• Intense sun exposure
• Dry weather
• Wind
• Hormonal changes
• Changes in the immune system
• Fatigue
• Injury to the skin


Stages of cold sores

Most cold sore outbreaks pass through distinct stages. During the first stage, the cold sore is not visible. Instead, patients experience a slight itching, tingling, or burning sensation near the lips. During the second stage, fluid-filled blisters begin to appear. Next, the blisters pop and form scabs. Finally, the scab eventually flakes off and the skin heals. In otherwise healthy individuals the entire process should take about two weeks. And there are things patients can do to prolong the process, or significantly speed things along.


What happens if you pop a cold sore?

Popping a cold sore can lead to potential problems. First, it can release the infected fluid and easily spread the virus to other parts of the body and to other people. It can also lower defenses against other illnesses and increase the risk of bacterial infection. Picking at the blisters or scabs can also cause scarring.


What to do instead of popping a cold sore

Clinical professionals agree it is best to touch the cold sore as little as possible. And there are several remedies patients can use to prevent a cold sore from erupting or accelerate healing once the blisters form. Cold compresses like pressing a cool cloth to the sore can reduce swelling and discomfort as well as aid healing. In fact, pressing an ice cube to the itching or burning spot on the lip can keep it from erupting. There are plenty of topical remedies patients can try that will help relieve soreness and hasten the healing process. And patients that experience frequent outbreaks can talk to their physician about a prescription for over-the-counter cold sore medication or antiviral medication to use as a preventative treatment.


Will hydrogen peroxide or toothpaste help with a cold sore?

Some people believe hydrogen peroxide or toothpaste may work as a home remedy for cold sores. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic and patients can apply a small amount to the sore with a cotton swap to reduce the risk of developing other cold sores and help treat cold sores and aid in healing. But toothpaste is not a recommended remedy for cold sores. While toothpaste does contain sodium lauryl sulfate to help dry out cold sores, it also contains other ingredients that can cause irritation and make cold sores even more painful.


Visiting the dentist with a cold sore

It can be worrisome to visit the dentist with a cold sore. And dental instruments and the stress of dental appointments can trigger an outbreak. This is why it is important for patients who suffer from cold sores to talk to their dental care practitioner. That way, the dentist can take precautions and minimize irritation. If a patient already has a cold sore, they should call their dentist in advance to talk about the condition. Some dentists will provide treatments for patients with an active cold sore, but it can aggravate the sore and cause bleeding and irritation. In most cases, it is better to reschedule the dental appointment and wait until the cold sore is no longer infectious and fully healed.


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