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Should I Pop my Cold Sore, Good or Bad Idea?

Popping a cold sore will only create a bigger problem. Leave them alone and let them run their course. This will lessen any facial scarring or infection.

Read on

So, you want to pop your cold sore? I get it. Cold sores and fever blisters could be the bane of your existence if you’ve had one rear its head while preparing for an important event such as a hot date, an amazing job interview, or even (gasp) your wedding! In a recent study, researchers found “a robust positive association” between herpes related cold sore outbreaks and higher stress levels. It makes sense that one would ask “Should I just pop my cold sore and just get it over with?” The assumption there is popping a cold sore would speed the healing process along, much like popping a big pimple. But this assumption, while makes sense, is wildly wrong. (Oops. Don't pop your cold sores!)

What is a cold sore?

Cold sores, also referred to as fever blisters, are small fluid-filled skin blisters that usually appear on the lips or around the mouth. These sores are comprised of many small blisters that make up one painful sore. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). The herpes virus is extremely prevalent and according to the World Health Organization, more than 67 percent of all people under 50 have this virus. This might in part be due to the fact that this virus is very contagious, as we will later learn in this article.

Can you pop a cold sore?

Popping a fever blister could be extremely tempting. But you should absolutely reconsider. A cold sore is not a pimple. Breaking open a cold sore will not speed the healing process, it can actually make the breakout last longer and make the situation far worse.

If you pop a cold sore you could be dealing with:

Potential spread, causing more cold sores:

Cold sores are highly contagious. When you pop a cold sore, the virus filled fluid is released onto your mouth and hands. Particles of the virus can remain on your hands after popping. By doing this you could create even more cold sores. Causing a heck of a problem.

Increasing chances that you might pass the virus to someone else:

When popping a cold sore, there is not only an increased possibility of spreading to other parts of your own body, but also spreading to other people. Don’t be that person, take precaution and don’t pop your cold sores.

Causing a potential genital herpes outbreak:

By popping your cold sore and introducing the contagious fluid to other parts of your body, you could unknowingly spread this to your genitals causing a new type of problem. Generally, HSV2 is the herpes virus that causes genital herpes and HSV1 causes oral herpes. However, it is possible to cause a genital herpes outbreak by exposing the HSV1 virus to the genitals.

Permanent scarring could be left behind after popping a cold sore:

When a cold sore is left alone to heal in its own time, there is usually no scar left behind. When you break the skin of a cold sore from popping or picking, there is an increased possibility you will be left with a scar from the breakout.

Increased risk of infection:

What is worse than a cold sore? An infected one. A popped cold sore is an open wound. This leaves the door wide open to other viruses, bacteria, and fungi. This infection also could leave behind scarring.

Slower healing:

Cold sores are painful enough. Popping a cold sore will make the healing process longer

Cold sores are contagious, take precaution

Popped or not, cold sores are contagious until the sores have completely scabbed over. While dealing with an active breakout there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid spreading it to others and to other parts of your body.

  • Avoid sharing lip products like lipstick or lip balm with others
  • Avoid sharing drinks.
  • Don’t kiss other people.
  • Try not to touch the cold sore.
  • If you touch the cold sore to apply topical medicine, wash your hands immediately.

Also read: Are cold sores contagious?: How to protect yourself and others

What to do instead of popping a cold sore

1. Pick up some Lysine

Lysine, or L-Lysine, is a necessary amino acid and a building block of protein.

Some studies indicate that supplementing with Lysine during a cold sore outbreak may help speed recovery and suppress recurrence.

Pharmacist Dr. Barat says “Oral doses of 1000mg-3000mg daily are commonly used in studies.”

2. Talk to your doctor about cold sore treatment medications

Medications such as Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir), and Valacyclovir (Valtrex) are no cures for this virus, however, they have been found to help reduce the recurrence of breakouts and decrease the recovery time.

Also read: How to get rid of cold sores: 8 tips

3. Put it on ice

Icing the cold sore can help reduce the swelling and perhaps relieve some pain.

Stay away from heat as this may ramp up the inflammation.

4. Over the counter pain relief

While taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen will not speed up your recovery time, it can help to keep you more comfortable during the healing process.

How long does it take to heal on its own?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a cold sore should clear on its own within 5 to 15 days. They usually do not scar. However, if this is your first break out, recovery time might take a bit longer. First-time breakouts can take 3 weeks to heal completely.

When to see a doctor

While most cold sore outbreak cases will not require any medical attention there are a few exceptions.

You’ll want to consider seeing a primary care doctor or dermatologist if:

  • You have an outbreak near your eyes.
  • You have an outbreak that has spread to other parts of your body.
  • If an outbreak lasts longer than two weeks.

So, should you pop your cold sore?

No, you really shouldn’t.

The best advice is to leave them alone and let them run their course.

This will lessen any chances of facial scarring or infection and will be the fastest route to healing. Popping a cold sore will only create a bigger problem.

The moral of the story is:

  • Leave your cold sores alone, they are very contagious.
  • Consult with your doctor about cold sore treatment medications.
  • If you are newly infected, the healing time will be longer than usual.
  • If you have a cold sore that has spread or is near your eyes contact a physician.

Valacyclovir from Strut for cold sores or genital herpes

At Strut, we offer online consultations for free with our U.S. licensed doctors to see if the antiviral medication Valacyclovir may be a good option for your HSV1 cold sores or HSV2 genital herpes. Valacyclovir may reduce the amount of time that your pesky cold sores stick around, and may help reduce the rate of recurrence. If you are a good candidate for treatment, your prescription medication can be shipped directly to your front door.

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