When it comes to cold sores, old wives' tales regarding how best to treat them are rife, which is worrying when you consider that around 80 percent of the population carries the herpes simplex virus--and many sufferers experience more than 12 outbreaks a year.
We went to the experts to help separate fact from fiction--and share remedies that work.
Myth: Cold sores are only contagious when they blister
False! The virus which induces cold sores is very contagious from the first "tingling" stages right up until the cold sore has completely healed. In fact 70 percent of people who have herpes caught the virus from their partner--when there were no signs or symptoms of an outbreak.
Myth: Cold sores only erupt on your mouth
False! Many people believe that if you have the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), it can't spread to other areas on your body. Unfortunately, it can migrate to your eyes and genital area, too!
Myth: You are bound to get cold sores if you have HSV-1
False! While 80 percent of the population carries HSV-1, only 20 percent of them regularly suffer from cold sores. The virus can also be active on the skin without showing any signs or symptoms.
Myth: Ice speeds up healing
False! Ice will provide relief temporarily from the itching, redness, and swelling. But it won't help you heal faster.
Myth: Witch hazel kills the cold sore virus
False! Dabbing some witch hazel on your cold sore will only dry it out, not kill off the virus.
Myth: People can be cured of the herpes virus
False! Unfortunately once you have the herpes virus, there is no way to cure it. It can lay dormant for a long time, but it will always still be there--and all sorts of factors can trigger it to erupt. Some triggers include fever, illness, stress, tiredness, and even chapped lips. So use a moisturizing lip balm. And if you do have a cold sore, the Mayo Clinic recommends treating it with Abreva, an over-the-counter medication.