Are ChapSticks Effective For Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small blisters that can form on or around your lips. They can cause burning, itching, and general discomfort.

They are common and usually clear up on their own, but there are ways to ease the symptoms.

So can ChapSticks and other lip balms effectively prevent or treat cold sores?

Have you considered clinical trials for Cold sores?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Cold sores, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is a cold sore?

A cold sore is a small blister that typically forms around the lips or in the mouth.

They don’t appear as one large blister but as blister clusters that are usually filled with clear fluid. Once the blisters break open, they crust over and eventually heal. The entire process can take up to two weeks.

What’s the difference between canker sores and cold sores?

Cold sores differ from canker sores — open wounds that form inside your mouth.

Canker sores aren’t contagious, but cold sores are.

What causes cold sores?

Also known as oral herpes, cold sores result from the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV is a highly contagious virus that spreads through skin-to-skin contact.¹

There are two types of HSV: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both can cause cold sores.

HSV-1 is the most common type of HSV and usually causes oral herpes or cold sores. It differs from HSV-2, a sexually transmitted virus that causes genital herpes.

Most people with HSV-1 contract it during childhood, but it can stay in the body for years.

You can pick up HSV by kissing someone who has it or sharing personal effects. It can cause cold sores to flare up when something triggers them, such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Colds and respiratory infections

  • Sunlight or wind exposure

  • Extreme temperatures

  • Stress

  • Hormonal changes (such as menstruation)

How do cold sores spread?

Cold sores are mostly spread via skin-to-skin contact. How?

The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores enters the body through mucous membranes or small breaks in the skin. It then travels to the dorsal root ganglion — a cluster of nerve cells near the base of the spine. It remains there until something triggers it to travel back down the nerve to the skin’s surface.

A study looking into the incidence of HSV revealed that in 2016, 66.6% of the global population under 50 years of age (3.7 billion people) were infected with HSV-1.²

How to avoid spreading cold sores

You can avoid spreading cold sores by practicing good hygiene and avoiding close contact with others during an active outbreak.

Be sure to wash your hands regularly, especially after touching your face or a cold sore. It’s also a good idea to avoid sharing personal effects like cups, cutlery, clothes, bedding, towels, lipsticks, and lip balms.

Avoiding personal contact with others (like kissing) is also advisable during an outbreak.

What is ChapStick, and what does it contain?

ChapStick is a brand of lip balm with ingredients like beeswax and essential oils. These ingredients work to moisturize and protect the lips from becoming chapped or dry.

How do ChapStick lip balms work?

ChapStick lip balms create a barrier on the surface of the lips, preventing moisture from escaping. They also help keep the lips hydrated and protected from cold temperatures and wind.

Some ChapStick products contain sun protection factors (SPF).

How long can the cold sore virus live on a ChapStick?

HSV-1 can survive for hours or up to seven days on inanimate objects.³

People should always avoid sharing lip balms for hygiene and health reasons. This is especially important during a cold sore outbreak.

What about lipstick?

Lipstick can also contain ingredients that help protect the lips from becoming chapped or dry. However, it won’t create the same barrier on the lips as a ChapStick.

Lipstick can also transfer the HSV-1 virus from one person to another if it comes into contact with an active cold sore.

Which lip balms can alleviate cold sores?

The range of lip balms on the market today is quite overwhelming. However, not all of them will offer protection against cold sores.

Unmedicated lip balm

Beeswax is a natural ingredient found in many unmedicated lip balms. It helps create a barrier on the lips, preventing moisture from escaping.

It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe the lips and alleviate pain from cold sores.

Medicated lip balm

Docosanol is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter cold sore treatments. It’s the only non-prescription FDA-approved ingredient on the market.⁴

It is most effective when used at the first sign of an outbreak. It aids healing by blocking the virus from entering healthy cells and replicating.

In a trial comparing docosanol 10% topical cream to a placebo, patients experienced significantly reduced healing time.⁵

Cold sore natural remedies

Home remedies can also help soothe and treat cold sore discomfort. Some popular home remedies include the following:

  • Applying a cold, damp cloth to the cold sore

  • Using lip balm or petroleum jelly to moisturize the lips

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen

The lowdown

Cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus. They are often spread through close contact with others who are infected. They can last over ten days and cause significant discomfort.⁶

ChapStick and other lip balms can help to moisturize and protect the lips. Remember that the virus can live on lip balms, lipsticks, and other inanimate objects for hours or up to seven days. Avoid sharing these items while you have a cold sore.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine like famciclovir, penciclovir, or valacyclovir. These are medications that can help your cold sore clear as soon as possible. In the meantime, using a medicated lip balm or other home remedies can provide extra relief.

Remember to practice good hygiene habits and avoid skin-to-skin contact with others to prevent the spread of cold sores while you have active sores.

Have you considered clinical trials for Cold sores?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Cold sores, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

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