How to Pop a Fever Blister and Other Cold Sore Remedies
Anyone who suffers from cold sores knows that in addition to being unsightly they can also be quite painful. At best, they're an irritating hassle that you want to go away as quickly as possible.
Having dealt with them for over thirty years, I've tried every remedy under the sun. I've found that the only treatment that speeds up the healing process is popping them.
Before getting to the best way to pop a cold sore, I'll go over some basic information since being informed about them is crucial to being able to treat them yourself. Knowledge, as they say, is power.
What Are They?
Cold sores, or fever blisters, are fairly common viral infections. They typically present as small, fluid-filled blisters on and around your mouth.
They spread from person to person through close contact such as kissing. The virus responsible for them is called Herpes Simplex 1 or HSV1. It is different from, though related to, the virus that causes genital herpes, HSV2. However, both viruses can affect your mouth or genitals and can be transmitted through oral sex.
The herpes virus that causes cold sores lies dormant for long periods of time and attacks when the immune system lets its guard down a little bit. If you've had a fever blister in the past, a weakened immune system from fatigue, alcohol, dehydration or even stress can trigger an outbreak. Sunburned and chapped lips also leave an open invitation for an attack of cold sores.
There is, unfortunately, no cure for them, but there are ways to control the number of outbreaks you experience. There are also ways to speed up the healing process and make them disappear more quickly.
Knowing the stages of a typical herpes outbreak can help you speed up the healing process. There are also some very effective home remedies that took only four days to remove the unsightly blisters: sores, scabs, and all. Unfortunately, you can still pass on the virus even if the sores aren't visible.
Cold Sore Stages
In this first stage of herpes, the virus comes into contact with the skin, which may develop a tingling sensation and start to redden. After a day or two, the area may become irritated, itchy, or painful.
It is likely that the lip will be painful when touched. If you're experiencing an outbreak for the first time, you may also develop a fever and feel some flu-like symptoms.
2. Inflammation and Blisters
Next small vesicles or tiny bump-like blisters will form and swell up rapidly as they fill with watery liquid swell up rapidly. These blisters can be red, white, or clear and can form in clusters of blisters or on their own.
This is the most miserable stage of the outbreak because your lip can literally triple in size, and it can become hard to conceal that something is wrong with your lip. The blisters usually stay in place for around two days.
3. Ulceration or "Weeping"
Eventually, the blisters become so full of liquid that they burst or ooze. When this happens, you've entered into the "weeping" stage.
You are most contagious at this point in the outbreak, and the liquid can even cause more blisters to develop on your face. This is also the most painful stage of the outbreak. It's also thankfully the shortest, lasting only a day or so.
Shortly after the blisters burst, they will dry out and scab over. Underneath the scab, new skin will form over two to three days.
Like any other scab, the one over your blister will eventually fall off leaving fresh, virus-free skin underneath. You should definitely not speed up this process by pulling off the scab, as doing so before it's finished healing can lead to scarring.
Should you pop it?
Some people are against popping the blisters, and warn against it. I too was apprehensive about popping the blisters at first.
I was concerned that it would make the problem worse and that I'd end up with 20 cold sores. But, I figured it couldn't be worse than some of the over-the-counter treatments I tried.
What You'll Need
How to Pop It
I was so frustrated with my frequent cold sore outbreaks that I did some research on the web to see what home remedies other people were using.
I was desperate enough to try anything that would clear up cold sores in less than a week's time. I experimented over the years with different methods and found one that completely stopped them in their tracks.
It's not a method for the faint of heart or for those with a low threshold for pain, but it eliminates the swelling and weeping stages completely, which can make them last 3-4 days or longer.
- Sterile Gauze
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Safety pin or needle
- Lighter or candle and match
- Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap. You want to avoid infecting yourself!
- Unwrap the gauze and set it aside, trying to handle only the edges.
- Hold the needle under a flame until it glows. Then set it on the gauze to use for later.
- Clean the blister and the surrounding area and pat dry with a towel.
- Apply the needle to your blister until it bursts. Use the gauze to sop up the liquid.
Covering the spot with a paste of salt and alcohol prevents any of the contagious liquid from spreading and immediately dries out the "would be" blister before it forms and swells up in size.
If you time it just right and keep the spot covered with this mixture of salt and alcohol, it will scab over the next day. Then, once it scabs over, you will have avoided the most painful and miserable portion of the outbreak.
The earlier you use this remedy, the better. If you attack the virus during the prodromal stage, at the very first indication that there is a cold sore about to emerge, you can eliminate the swelling and weeping and skip straight to the drying out phase.
When popping the blister, you want to make sure to contain the liquid from the blister. That is why bursting it in the prodromal stage is best. At that point, there isn't much, if any, liquid to worry about. If you miss this window of opportunity and end up with watery blisters, this method will still dry out the sores and reduce the healing time.
The only downside is that popping bigger blisters means that there is more contagious liquid that could potentially cause other blisters to form.
So you'll have to be especially vigilant in your efforts to contain them by immediately applying the gauze. This method stings pretty bad, but it isn't nearly as bad as dealing with the swelling and weeping stages of misery caused by the cold sores.
- Toothpaste. This is the most frequently recommended home remedy for cold sores. When applied during the prodomal stage, it will numb the infected area and allow for better blood flow, promoting healing. Some recommend adding salt to the toothpaste to speed up the drying-out process. But these methods didn't work for me. The size of the blisters were smaller and less painful, but they took just as long to heal.
- Fingernail polish remover. Others have even suggested applying acetone fingernail polish remover to the sore. I tried this method, which hurt like hell and didn't seem to be any more effective than the salt and alcohol method, just more painful.
It is hard to say what remedy will work each individual. I've had outbreaks at least once a year for 30 years, so I've tried just about every remedy known to man. I've found that most products available on the market don't actually speed up the healing process at all, at least not for me.
Most of the medications contain numbing agents, such as menthol or phenol to reduce the pain.
- Abreva is one over-the-counter cream that helps a lot of people get rid of their cold sores. It works to contain outbreaks by blocking the virus from coming into contact with healthy skin. When I tried, my cold sores actually got worse and the cream didn't stop the progression of the sores at all.
- Lysine is another popular remedy. It is an amino acid that, when taken orally or applied topically as a cream, reduces cold sores.
- Campho Phenique is supposed to help dry out the sores, but when I used it on my cold sores, more appeared and it took the usual week and a half to get rid of them completely.
After an especially bad outbreak caused by a sunburn, I went to the doctor, who prescribed Zovirax pills and ointment. Zovirax is an antiviral drug used to treat herpes and shingles.
This treatment did speed up the healing process and dry out the blisters more quickly. However, the medicine lost its potency after I used it for a few different outbreaks. It seemed like the virus became immune to it.
As I said before, everyone is different and what works for some people, may not work for others. What ways have you found for getting rid of cold sores faster?
What Works for You?
What's your method of treating cold sores?
© 2012 crissytsu