Understanding how to take care of a cold sore and make it heal quickly is important. Especially if you have recurrent cold sores. Medical professionals and experts in cold sores mention early treatment as having appreciable benefits in terms of a shorter period. You’ve gradually been noticing a tingling sensation and redness on your lip and identified it as a cold sore. What next should you do once you have your diagnosis?
There are many ways in which you can manage a cold sore by yourself. Remember that antivirals are expensive, have side effects and require that you abide by the dose stipulated. Will you be taking antivirals every now and then a cold sore appears? The answer should be right in your kitchen or dining table.
Why Salt on Cold Sores on lips?
Before going into the benefits of having salt as a treatment option, it will be worthwhile knowing what promotes the growth and replication of the virus, herpes simplex 1.
Adequate arginine in the cell: this is required by the HSV for its formation. This has formed the basis on which lysine works. Lysine replaces the arginine in the cells and takes over its function to prevent replication of the virus and hence healing of the sores.
Acidic environment: the pH of the skin should be around 7.4 to make it physiological. This, as you notice, is slightly in the basic pH. An acidic environment probably due to increased production of sebum or chemicals in your cosmetic might lead to on overgrowth of HSV. This means faster development of the cold sore. There are other reasons as to why your skin may assume an acidic pH including eating acidic food, stress and a cold. This has formed the basis on which hydrogen peroxide and sodium bicarbonate is being used in treatment of a cold sore.
Warm and moist habitat: this is essential for the replication and survival of the virus. Therefore, cool compress method normally comes in handy in reducing the heat so as to delay the development of the cold sore. This might give you a window period allowing you to attend the interview.
Having understood how the HSV survives, the use of salt on cold sores helps in management of cold sores since it has the following properties:
- Salt forms a hypertonic environment when used in higher quantities than that in normal saline, about 0.9 mg in 100 mL of distilled water. It drains water towards it therefore.
- Salt can dehydrate or desiccate microbes due to the high osmotic pressure it offers.
- Salt well dissolves in water and can therefore be used in preparation of a water bath. A water bath may also be an option in which you can dip the affected area for a while.
How Does Salt help heal cold sores?
As mentioned in the previous section, applying salt to a cold sore may be beneficial in inhibiting viral and bacterial infections on the skin. This may be painful but this can be countered by adding milk to the salt and mixing. Here is how salt helps in healing cold sores.
- Salt helps in the absorption of moisture from the cells adjacent the location of a cold sore. Ever poured salt onto a snail? It literally melts and becomes flaccid. The hypertonic environment created by the salt reduces the moisture in the cutaneous cells. This is good since it will dehydrate the environment in which the HSV is replicating.
- It also helps in draining the blister off its fluid. This speeds up the healing time of cold sores.
- Salt also provides mild antimicrobial activity. In fact salt has historically been used on wounds to desiccate microbes killing them in the long run. According to Bogart, Larry, et al (1993), a salt solution of about 16g in 100 mL of water, regarded as hypertonic, could be beneficial in killing cells and microbes in a lesion.
- According to the author of American Academy of Pediatric Books, Barton D. Schmitt, MD, lesions and scabs could be treated with warm salt in warm water. Hence salt would be good to use on cold sore scabs too.
- Salt with other additional beneficial ingredients such as honey, peroxide and garlic among others provides an effective treatment to cold sores.
How to Use Salt on Cold Sores-Salt water & Crushed
How to use salt water (Water & salt Solution)
Salt can be dissolved in water and applied to the lip on the cold sore. The benefits of doing so have been outlined in the sections prior to this.
- You will need either Sea salt, Epsom salt or Kosher salt.
- Measure out half a teaspoon of the salt you have chosen into 240 mL of water that has been boiled and cooled to lukewarm.
- If you have cold sores in the buccal cavity, swish around in your mouth then spit. If the cold sore is on the lip, then apply the water and leave to dry. The salt crystal would however be better for an external cold sore.
- Do this three times in a day until you notice relief of symptoms.
Using salt without water
Salt can directly be applied onto the cold sore to treat them. Do this:
- Wash your hands with warm water and some soap with antibacterial activity.
- Pick some salt with your finger. Moisten your finger before doing this. Slightly. If you are using Kosher or Epsom salt, you will need to crush the crystals into a fine powder. Table salts tend to be small already.
- Apply onto the cold sore by pressing onto them for about 15 seconds. Take care not to press the blister and burst it. This may lead to scarring.
- You can afterwards apply a topical oil or an antibiotic cream to it. Avoid applying the same stream of cream to the whole face of adjacent parts of the lip.
Can you leave Salt on Cold Sore Overnight?
Is it okay to keep salt on cold sore overnight?
Yes you can. Commonly, people apply the salt overnight on the cold sore and go to bed. You however need to make sure that you oil your lip to avoid cracking.
How long to leave salt on cold sore?
You can leave the salt powder on the cold sore for not less than 15 minutes. You can also leave it overnight. Just ensure that in case of extreme dehydration of the lip, apply some oil or moisturizer.
Epsom, Sea, Kosher Salt for Cold Sore? Which is the best for cold sore?
Sea salt is produced by evaporation of seawater and does not involve extraction from sediments. While it is used cosmetics, it has no additional benefits when compared to regular table salt. This is because the quality of sodium chloride is the same
In fact, according to an Australian Professor Bruce Neal, the health risks associated with either is the same. The only difference is the additional processing to prevent clumping done on table salt. Sea salt like table salt also contains iodine but the former, like Epsom salt has magnesium.
Unlike any other, sea salt has potassium. It has been however discovered that sea salt has been contaminated by microplastics.
Kosher salt is similar to table salt but with larger crystals hence not any different. Epsom salt on the other hand has magnesium sulphate instead of sodium chloride.
Therefore, the best for cold sore would be sea salt as it contains a higher osmotic pressure owing to the higher number of osmotically active elements such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. Epsom salt follows due to the sulfur content. Sulfur is a known antimicrobial.
Other ingredients to use with salt
Toothpaste and salt on cold sore
Toothpaste provides an alkaline environment onto the cold sores hence help in the healing process. It also contains the long chain fatty acid and surfactant with antimicrobial activity, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). This further inhibits the formation of blisters. Therefore a combination of toothpaste and salt would be good for cold sores in the blistering stages.
Wash your index finger and measure out a stream of the paste onto the tip. Sprinkle some salt powder onto it then apply onto the cold sore applying slight pressure. Then wash off after 15 minutes.
Salt and alcohol on cold sores
Alcohol is another remedy that has been tried in the treatment of cold sores. Get 70 % isopropyl alcohol for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It is particularly good for prevention of re-infection by HSV. It comes in handy when applying around the cold sore, further preventing spread to other areas.
Use a cotton swab dipped in the alcohol then hold against the cold sore. Then apply with some pressure, the salt to the sore and leave to stand or about 10 minute or do this at night before you go to sleep. This will require that you leave to stay overnight.
Lime and salt on a cold sore
Lime is acidic and may deemed to harmful. However, the mild antimicrobial properties of limonene can be beneficial in addition to the salt (Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy).
Soak a ball of cotton in lime juice and apply onto the cold sore. Follow this up with the salt as recommended in the previous sections.
Peroxide and salt on cold sore
This chemical is a known disinfectant meant for wounds and lesions. It promotes faster healing too due to the antiseptic activity. To use hydrogen peroxide, make sure that you dilute a concentrated solution to 3 % to avoid corrosion of the mucous membranes.
Use a cotton swab to collect the peroxide and apply on the cold sore. You could choose to either mix the salt in the solution or apply directly on the cold sores.
Baking soda and salt on cold sores
Backed by limited studies, baking soda is purportedly beneficial in treating cold sores due to the alkaline pH it brings to the skin. It may however lead to drying and crusting of the skin. In as much as making the skin alkaline may be the objective, using baking soda may lead to a high pH which is potentially harmful too.
It may therefore lead to delayed healing of cold sores.
Garlic and salt on cold sore
Garlic has antimicrobial compounds, alliin and allicin which are beneficial in the presence of bacteria and viruses. Hence add this to your cart and add some salt to the mixture you make. Apply the solution to cold sores twice a day for as long as the cold sore is there.
Always remember to wash your hands well before applying solutions or if not, avail a cotton ball.
Honey and salt on cold sore
Honey has high levels of flavonoids and phenolic acid. The two help fight herpes simplex virus and hasten the healing time. This has been studied by Noori S. Al-Waili, M.D., a physician in private practice in the United Arab Emirates. In his 2004 study, he compared the efficacy of acyclovir with honey in cold sores.
In those who applied the honey about 4 times a day, there was healing within three days unlike the expected 6 days. Acyclovir produced results in 6 days. It surprisingly prevented an outbreak in 2 subjects who applied the honey in the first 2 days.
A teaspoon of honey can be mixed with an equal part of salt powder and applied onto the cold sore thrice a day until the sore heals for best results.