I have been trying to complete this post about cold sores for at least a month. Every time I begin, I imagine a tingling sensation on my lip and I quit immediately. If you get cold sores, I am sure you fully understand why I chicken out.

Cold Sores — you either get ‘em or you don’t. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus. As a rule, people go kind of squirrelly when they hear the word “herpes.”

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Once contracted, the cold sore virus hides out in your body FOREVER, sadly, and flares up at the most inopportune times such as for your first date, for picture day at school, for your sweet sixteen party, for your senior prom, for your wedding and any other important event.

Believe me, I have about fifty years of experience with cold sores. If that isn’t enough proof, just ask my daughter. I passed them on to her. (So sorry, Allison!)

For people with a healthy immune system, they are nothing more than an aggravation. The same, however, cannot be said for the very young, the very old and those with a compromised immune system. In these cases, the herpes simplex virus can be fatal.

I do not remember specific outbreaks in elementary school, but they haunted me in high school, at a time when teenagers are consumed by their appearance.

What causes outbreaks? Stress, hormonal changes, fatigue, sun exposure, illness, very dry conditions, the way you hold your mouth, a full moon, your cat’s birthday..… Everybody has a theory.

I almost missed out on my very first kiss because of a wretched cold sore. How emotionally scarring would that have been?
The handsome young man asked, “Is that thing on your lip contagious?”
“No, “I lied. And then it happened.

“It wasn’t that long, and it certainly wasn’t the kind of kiss you see in movies these days, but it was wonderful in its own way, and all I can remember about the moment is that when our lips touched, I knew the memory would last forever.”
― Nicholas SparksA Walk to Remember

A different young man, who did not kiss me, asked, “What is that THING on your lip? It looks like a wart on a witch’s nose.” I should have whacked him up the side of the head with my broom. Or even better — planted a big smackeroo square on his lips and shared my friend, herpes simplex, also known as the gift that keeps on giving, with him.

I could always tell when I was getting a cold sore — a spot on my lip would itch or burn and by morning I would have a big ugly blister on my lip. If I had one on my top lip, there was a good possibility it would spread up to my nose. If I had one on my bottom lip, it might run all over my chin.

Some well-meaning person would ask, “Have you been to the doctor, dear? You could have impetigo. My mother’s three-toed, second cousin ten times removed,  was covered with sores from head to toe.” Just for the record, I have never had impetigo,

I lied to myself for years, believing a cold sore only lasted for a week, but there were times when it took three weeks for one to heal completely.

Back in the day, the doctor would prescribe a penicillin ointment to rub on it, but that was useless because penicillin cannot cure a virus . It only made you feel you were doing something about it.

I always called my brothers when I got one, because I am convinced the nasty virus be transmitted through the telephone lines, windmills, radio waves, satellite communication, solar panels and fiber optic cables. Often, my brothers already had at least one cold sore anyway.

Somehow I managed to graduate from college in 1978 and to get married in 1979 without an oozing sore on my lip.

In the 1980s, drug manufacturers came out with antiviral drugs such as Zovirax. The ointment was to be applied to the lip just as soon as one felt that burning or itching in the lip. It was supposed to either prevent the cold sore from forming or shorten the length of the outbreak. I used it for a while. I found it would prevent the formation of the cold sore, but that spot on my lip would stay extremely sensitive for months. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Family doctors were split over the use of Vaseline. Some claimed it was the best mode of treatment while others claimed it was the worst thing to put on your lip. I found Vaseline helped more than anything else.

I think I have the mother of all cold sore stories to share with you.  I swear every word is true.  Would I lie?

On September 22, 1984, I went into hospital to giBaby Allie WBve birth to our beautiful daughter, Allison. The very next day, while in the hospital, a cold sore appeared on my lip. That set the maternity ward on its end. It was if I had SARS or EBOLA. Immediately, my day old baby was put in isolation because she, too, could be infected with the virus. I already had a private room and was ordered not to leave it. Nurses had to gown and glove each time they came into my room. For the most part, they stayed away.

Those were the days when new mothers spent several days in the hospital. On the third morning my doctor called and told me my cold sore had the whole floor in turmoil. Would I mind going home? I was more than happy to oblige and to go anywhere I was not treated like a leper.

Did I ever figure out what caused my cold sores? Yes I did! I kept records for a long time until a pattern emerged. Mine were fueled by the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone each month.

For other health reasons, I had a complete hysterectomy in my early thirties. And voilà, shazzam, no more cold sores.

That was more than twenty years ago and I could count on one hand the number of cold sores I have had since then.

Every cold sore sufferer has a remedy they swear by. I actually checked some out and this is what I found. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at some of them. They run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, and that’s no joke.


Anonymous from Anonymous: Dab whiskey on the cold sore.

Melissa from Pittsburgh: Apply a wet Earl Grey tea bag.

Denise from Jamaica: Dab it with Listerine (original version) dries it up in 2 days.

Lindsay from Australia: Zap it with a live nine volt battery.

Corie from Australia: Rub it with Garlic Vegemite Deodorant.

Angie from Carmack: Pat it with Nail Polish Remover.

Desperate Girl:Cover it with a Polysporin Cold Sore Patch.

Ktmg10 from Oregon: DO NOT Lick Your Cold Sore.

Just Helping Out from Michigan: Apply Bleach with a Cotton Swab.

Justine from PA: Follow a grain free diet.

Chuck from Dalian China: Move to China.

Tammy from Oklahoma: Rub it with an Unburned Match.

Diena from Bonaire: Cover it with Earwax . (Maybe Mom was right all along.)

And My Personal Favourite from Michelle from USA: — Preparation H

I think I have come to the conclusion that cold sore treatments are like cures for the common cold: Do whatever makes you feel good and your cold sore will last seven to ten days. Don’t do anything and your cold sore will be gone in a week and a half.

And finally, want to test your knowledge of cold sores?  Check out this quiz.