A mother brought her 7 year old son to me for repeated
blisters around the mouth. She said that every few weeks the child
developed small blister like eruptions around the mouth, which would
remain for a few days and then disappear by itself. These blisters
would ooze and then form a crust, which would eventually shed off
leaving no scar. She was very worried about this as she did not understand
what kind of infection this was.
I explained to her that this was a case of Cold Sores or Herpes Simplex Virus
WHAT ARE COLD SORES?
Cold sores are known by many different names. Some
people call these eruptions as "Fever blisters" or oral sores. Cold
sores are nothing but a type of eruption, which occurs most commonly
on the face especially around the lips. The medical terminology for
cold sores is Recurrent Herpes Labialis.
WHAT CAUSES COLD SORES AND HOW IS THIS INFECTION
Many of us must have heard of Herpes Virus but there
are many different types of Herpes viruses. Cold sores are caused
by Type I Herpes Simplex Virus. This should not be mistaken with Type
II Herpes Simplex Virus.
Type I Herpes Simplex Virus can be acquired from
an individual who is carrying this virus. It is a contagious disease
where the virus is carried in the saliva and mucus discharges of the
body. You can get it by eating from the same utensils, sharing a glass
or cutlery with an infected individual. You can even get the infection
by kissing or using the same towel with someone who already is carrying
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF THIS INFECTION?
Even if you get infected with Type I Herpes Simplex
virus there may be no symptoms or signs of disease at all. This virus
remains dormant in the nerves supplying the skin. The most common
nerve affected is the Trigeminal Nerve ganglion therefore the most
common site of developing these sores is around the mouth.
In fact this infection is so common that nearly 80% of the general
population will have been exposed to this virus in their lifetime
but not all will suffer or even show any signs of it.
Most people acquire this infection in their childhood
especially between the age of 6 months to 5 years. This is because
a child's immunity is immature and not able to fight the virus from
entering the body. Once acquired this virus can remain dormant for
Mostly children and those with poor immunity suffer
from cold sores. Here are the symptoms normally seen with this infection.
1. First a slight swelling, soreness develops around
the mouth or any other location.
2. This affected area will show small blisters, which are red and
3. These blisters will break open eventually and ooze.
4. After this a crust is formed which will shed leaving the affected
part of skin pink in colour.
5. Healing then takes place without leaving a scar.
6. Sometimes however these sores can spread from the lips to the inside
of the mouth. This causes a lot of pain and discomfort while eating.
7. Swallowing can be difficult if swollen glands develop in the neck.
8. Many children loose their appetite because of the pain in the mouth.
9. Some children will develop high fever and headaches.
10. Cold sores can give rise to bad breath and also trouble sleeping
as it causes irritation to the child.
11. If the eyes get infected then it causes redness, pain, watering
and sensitivity to light and bright objects.
12. Cold sores may keep recurring repeatedly at frequent intervals
if the child's immunity is low.
WHAT TRIGGERS THE REACTIVATION OF THIS VIRUS?
Since this virus remains dormant in our body after
acquiring this infection, it can be reactivated anytime when the body's
immunity is low. But what triggers it or what lowers our body's immunity?
There are a number of things that can trigger reactivation of this
viral infection but the most common are:-
1. Stress - any kind of stress mental, emotional or physical can trigger
the reactivation of this virus.
2. Illness - if you have had any severe illness then you may develop
cold sores due to weakness of your immune system.
3. Injury - to the lips, or the skin around the mouth can give rise
to cold sores.
4. Menstruation - some women are prone to getting cold sores around
the time of their periods. Some even experience it during pregnancy.
5. Exposure to excessive light - damages the skin and this can give
rise to cold sores as the virus gets reactivated.
6. Children - are more prone as their immune system is immature.
7. HIV and people suffering from immune deficiency - these patients
tend to suffer from recurring Herpes Simplex labialis once the infection
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR COLD SORES?
Because this infection is so common in the general
public, it is difficult to avoid acquiring it.
If you or your child develops a cold sore apply ice to the affected
Keep the ice for atleast ten minutes every few hours. This will give
relief from the pain as well as not allow the sore to develop further
Avoid touching the other parts of your face or eyes if you have touched
the sore. Wash your hands repeatedly every time you touch the sore.
If your child has a sore keep his napkin, towel, clothes separately
for wash. Do not send him to school and allow him to rest at home
especially if he has fever.
You can apply a moisturizer if the lips crack or the scabs hurt. The
best thing to apply is plain petroleum jelly.
Since cold sores occur when the body's immunity
is low the best way to avoid the attacks from recurring is to improve
your body's immunity. In Homeoepathy we treat the individual keeping
the patients constitution in mind and the status of his immunity.
The constitutional remedy if correct will boost the patient's immunity
in order to the fight the infection. There are also certain remedies
given to give relief when the attack comes. Here are a few of the
remedies, which have proven effective in these cases.
Like the case I described earlier of the 7 year
old boy, if you are getting recurrent attacks of cold sores then this
remedy should be thought of. Ranunculus has special affinity for the
nerves. Here the pains are described as stitching, stabbing, shooting
type. There is so much pain that the patient is in tears. The sore
is very painful to touch.
These eruptions itch and burn and deep ulcers are formed. The patient
feels better by applying something warm to the affected part.
Ranunculus Bulbosus 200, 5 pills 4 times a day will
help give relief from the sore.
St. John's Wort or Hypericum is a popular Homoeopathic
remedy. It is well known for curing affections of the nerve. This
remedy is very useful in treating recurrent attacks of cold sores.
Here the pains are described as burning, tingling, with numbness.
The area around the mouth feels very sore. This remedy helps heal
old sores and ulcers in the mouth. Also a very useful remedy for any
injury to the spinal cord or other nerves.
Give Hypericum 200, 5 pills in repeated doses which
will help heal the sores and cure.
I had a 30 year old male patient who came to me
with repeated attacks of cold sores. The peculiar symptom was that
he got it every time he was exposed to sunlight for a long time. He
described his pains as electric like shock. He also felt burning heat
in the affected area.
This patient also had another underlying skin disorder which caused
itching all over his body. The skin burns all over. He felt worse
every time he was exposed to sunlight but he felt better by a hot
Radium Brom 1M, 5 pills 4 times a day healed not
only the cold sores but also the other skin affection.