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If your children are among the more than 40% of Americans who get cold sores, they’ll be the first to tell you that having one is far from a pleasant experience. So, when your kids start to notice that familiar tingling sensation that signals an outbreak, what can you do to help? What actually works?
Well, quite honestly what "works" when it comes to cold sores, is management. Specifically: preventing, treating, and eliminating the transmission of this most annoying of viruses. Here’s how to do it:
Cold Sore Prevention
The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is certainly true when it comes to cold sores, so knowing what causes them to surface is key. The number one and number two reasons are a weakened immune system and exposure to rapidly changing weather. To tackle the weather, encourage your children to have lip moisturizer with sunscreen on hand to protect their lips from the sun, wind, and cold. To boost the immune system, be sure your children are getting enough sleep, and share with them any sage advice you may possess regarding dealing with stress.
Also, as with most things in life, what's good for the waistline is good for our immune system. Here are a few dietary suggestions that can help boost the immune system, and keep cold sores from cropping up:
- Eat Raw, Alkalizing Foods: Fruits and vegetables are super-good for us. Have your kids consume as many of them as they enjoy.
- Top-up On Cruciferous Vegetables: Clinical studies are beginning to suggest that veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale are of great benefit to cold-sore sufferers.
- Avoid Arginine: Cold sores need the amino acid arginine to grow, so if you can limit the excess intake of this amino acid, it may be possible to keep frequent outbreaks at bay. Nuts, chocolate, oats, and some protein shakes are high in arginine, and can be major cold sore triggers.
Cold Sore Treatment and RemediesPreventing a cold sore from appearing is indeed the best medicine. When a cold sore does make an appearance, though, here are a few things you can suggest your children do to minimize its pain, size, and duration.
- Ice It! At the first sign of tingling, grab an ice cube, wrap it in a paper towel, and have your child place it on their lip where they feel the cold sore coming on. Often two back-to-back applications of an ice cube until it melts can dramatically reduce the pain and swelling that accompanies the sore.
- Slather It? Not Now, But Later. Cold sores love warm, moist environments, and this is precisely the environment presented to a cold sore when it is slathered in cream for days on end. Experiment with this, but it’s often best to let it dry out to the point where it is no longer painful, and then begin applying cream or lip balm to minimize splitting. As the cold sore resolves itself, it's best to keep lips moist to prevent bleeding, which also aids in the healing at this stage.
Eliminate Transmission of Cold SoresBe sure to let your kids know they should avoid sharing food, utensils, towels, toothbrushes, or any other item that could come in contact with their mouth. Doing so will help avoid spreading the virus to others. Kissing and other aspects of intimacy that involve the mouth should be avoided entirely. Also, be sure they know to avoid touching the cold sore and then later touching their eyes or genital area. In fact, the best course of action is to suggest they avoid touching their mouth at all during an outbreak, and not again until after the scab has dropped off completely, AND healed over. This can take some weeks. As always, thorough hand-washing habits are a must as well.
Having a cold sore is not the end of the world, and your kids will get used to having them. Nine out of ten people get at least one cold sore in their life, so there is no need to hide in the closet. Help your children to understand triggers, find solutions that work, and keep others healthy by avoiding spreading the virus. Stay healthy!
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