Cool compress is one of known home remedies for cold sores. Read on to find out more on the pros of using this method how you can use it heal fever blisters fast
Cold Sores & Cool Compress
You could start off by understanding what cold sores are in the first place. They are also known as fever blisters and are caused by a viral pathogen. The virus responsible for the occurrence of cold sores is known as herpes simplex virus-1. This is not the same as that which causes genital herpes known as the herpes virus-2. However, both of these viruses spread and are very contagious and can affect your mouth or genitals. Oral sex is therefore a culprit.
The sores are tiny and fluid filled blisters that form on or around the lips along the vermillion border which is the strait that runs between the skin above the lips and the lips themselves. When the blister lesions group or cluster, they form patches. They may also break and crust forming a sore.
Cold sores are expected to be self-healing or self-limiting since they are caused by viruses. However, a course of antiviral administered within the first 72 hours may reduce the period of infection. Viral infections such as a cold sore are therefore greatly treated by home remedies such as the compress method.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in addition to the analgesics or pain killers given such as paracetamol, you can cool the sores. The compress method can be very useful in reducing the healing time and fortunately, provides a relatively inexpensive and easy routine to taking care of your cold sores.
The compress method involves placing a clean towel immersed in clean cold water. The towel is then removed from the water and placed on the cold sores for about 5 or 10 minutes. When this is done at least three times daily, it could help reduce the redness, itching and inflammation associated with a cold sore. The benefits and how cool compress helps in the management of cold sores is discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.
Benefits of Cold Sore Cool Compress
The cool compress method provides a number of benefits based on its mechanism of action on cold sores. In this section, you are basically going to learn how cold works.
Reduces the flow of blood to the lesion
Cold sores are normally red in color. The redness that accompanies them is due to the ‘rubor’ cardinal sign of an inflammation. Rubor referes to redness caused by accumulation of excessive blood in the area with a lesion.
Blood flow to an area with an infection is increased by pro-inflammatory agents such as bradykinin produced by mast cells so as to provide more fighting power by increased white blood cells. This is physiological and thus a normal event of the healing process.
However, the redness may be reduced by using the cool compress so as to make it less grotesque. Applying cold to the sore, constricts the blood vessels that supply the area and in the long run reduce the rubor.
Reduces the swelling
Any inflammation or swelling around the cold sore may be countered by placing a cold towel or ice on the affected area. Swelling is a tumor and also a cardinal sign of inflammation. Though being equally physiological as redness due to the benefits it has on the healing process, it is externally deemed pathological.
It occurs as a result of extravasation of plasma cells and plasma itself into the interstitium. This process avails enough white blood cells, anti-inflammatory markers and other lesion healing agents. When you apply cool compress on cold sores, constriction of the blood vessels reduces the extravasation of cells and fluid and hence reduces the interstitial fluid. Swelling is reduced.
The ability of cool compress to alleviate pain is due to a number of reasons:
- The numbing effect it has on the nerves innervating the area. It literally results in ‘deadening’ of the large nerve fibers that supply the affected area.
- Desensitization: when these fibers fire continuously, they tend to become less effective in transmitting pain signals and therefore less pain felt.
- Cool compress is a two in one process involving not only cold but also compression: the nerves that transmit pressure are known as nerve fibers A delta. These nerves also transmit signals from cold thermo receptors and pain receptors. Hence, compression stimulates the nerves and instead there is transmission of the pressure signal rather than pain. This is the mechanism applied in massage. At the same time, when cold is effected, there is transmission of cold signals rather than pain.
- Reduction in the delivery of pain mediators through the blood: when the blood vessels are constricted, pain mediators are reduced. Hence there is less pain felt on the cold sores.
Window of comfort
By using cool compress, you provide comfort to yourself for a while helping reduce the pain. This comes in handy before a meal. While the sores can be painful during feeding when salt meets an open lesion, you can use the cool compress to provide a window of comfort. This is unlike using oral pain killers which require more time to elicit their effect. Hence topical application of cold is much more preferable.
Helps drain excessive fluid from the lesion
Cool compress results in opening of the blister and drainage of the fluid in the lesion. The compression is particularly responsible for this.
Since you will need items you are already in possession of, this method offers a cheap alternative to using pharmaceuticals. Note that viral infections cannot be cured and the best you can do is manage the associated symptoms.
Purchasing an anti-viral agent such as acyclovir is expensive keeping in mind that the best it can do is reduce the pathological period of the infection and reducing recurrence. It however, does not completely eliminate the infectious agent.
You will need water, freezer or ice, towel and probably a bag (which you can improvise)
No side effects
Given that it acts dramatically on cold sores with no side effects, it is regarded as a really good option for cold sores. It has no side effects if used well. Read on how to do a cool compress in the following sections.
Beware that incorrectly using this method could dry your nasal and respiratory airways during the process which may result in a cough or an upper respiratory tract infection. This is owed to the fact that the respiratory system needs to be moisturized by mucus so as to provide muco-cilliary function against pathogens in the tract.
This is however rare unless you are aggressively applying the cold towel to your nose. Doing it wrongly could also make you get frost bites which is an add-on injury to the cold sores.
In a nutshell, a cool compress helps a cold sore in the following ways:
- Relieves the pain associated with it.
- Reduces the swelling.
- Helps drain the fluid in the blisters.
- Reduces the time of recovery/recuperation.
- Augments or complements other ways being used to treat cold sores.
How to cool compress on cold sore?
You should know that the earlier you start the cool compress, the better the outcome. It is important that you recognize a cold sore as early as possible so as to mitigate it as early as possible. Even if you are going to use other medication such as an anti-viral agent, you need to start off as early as within the first 48 hours.
There are a number of ways you can apply the cool compress on your cold sore. Perform this as follows and you will notice positive changes:
- If you have ice in your freezer, then you can use it. However, you should not apply this directly to your face. You will suffer from frost bites. What you should do is place the pack on an already wet towel. You can also use a wash cloth or a gauze. Some people have ice in a bag already and this is a ready to use. To make it a bit milder, you can add the blocks of ice to cool water then dip the towel into it for a while. Alternatively, you can cool some water in a freezer or lower compartment of a refrigerator.
- Now apply either of what you prepared onto the cold sores. Do this for about 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat after every 4 – 6 hours. Do not place the ice for longer periods of time as you may risk catching a cold.
- Repeat the procedure daily until you notice that the sore is gone.
There are other methods including using of ice chips in a plastic bag and frozen gel packs. Make sure that you compress the area of interest.
Tips and Ideas to make cool compress more effective.
There are various ways in which you can make this method more beneficial to you and the cold sores. Here are some of them:
- Start early: the earlier the better. This means that it will take you a shorter while before you realize improvements to the cold sores with this method.
- Perform a cool compress more frequently: insist on an improvement by being a bit more aggressive.
- Perform regular cool compress: you need to maintain the frequency at calculated time periods. Make it a dose for you. However, do not overdo it.
- Do not give up on the first day: when you notice that there are not any observable changes from the outside, keep going. There might be changes on the inside that are yet to show.
- Use ice gel packs: there are gels that act in the same manner as the ice packs. You could opt for this since it is better to comply with in the long run.