Cold sores can be painful and unsightly. They can also be itchy and irritating. But, is that itching sensation a bad thing? Or, does an itchy cold sore mean that it’s healing? Cold sores, or fever blisters, are prone to multiple symptoms.
If you’ve never had a cold sore, knowing the warning signs will help you prepare for those symptoms. Cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus. Once you contract the virus, it lives inside you forever, as there is no known cure. However, it is typically dormant. Some people may never even know they have the virus.
To better understand some of the symptoms that go along with cold sores, it’s important to know the stages. Five stages cover the lifespan of a cold sore. Itching can occur in more than one of those stages. With proper treatment, you can alleviate the itching sensation, and your cold sore can heal cleanly.
Does Itchiness Mean That a Cold Sore Is Healing?
Anyone can get a cold sore. However, if you’ve never experienced one before, knowing the five stages the sore will go through will help you with the healing process. Cold sores will heal on their own. Typically, it only takes a matter of days. However, not only are they ugly, but they can also be very uncomfortable. That’s why many people seek out additional treatment options, such as HERP-B-GONE cold sore cream.
The side-effects and symptoms that go along with the stages can provide an extra reason for treatment. Itching, for example, can be a big problem. Does itching mean a cold sore is healing? Typically, yes. However, it can also cause problems if the sensation to scratch becomes unbearable.
The Different Stages of a Cold Sore
To further understand when/why itching occurs, let’s look at the five stages of a cold sore.
- Stage 1 – Beginning Symptoms: Most people will experience symptoms of a fever blister a day or so before it appears. These symptoms can include things like tingling, soreness, or itching around the mouth/lips.
- Stage 2 – Development: As the cold sore develops and the infection gets stronger, you’ll notice visible signs of the virus. Often, this comes in the form of fluid-filled blisters.
- Stage 3 – Rupturing: Once the blisters have fully formed, they can burst open. This is usually the most painful stage of the cold sore lifespan. However, the sores will eventually start to scab over. This is the beginning of the healing process.
- Stage 4 – Scabbing: Scabbing can be painful and irritating. It’s also when the sores will likely be the itchiest. However, this is a good sign of the blisters healing. It’s crucial that you never pick at or itch the scabs, as tempting as it may be. If the scabs fall off, the sores can open again. Not only does that lengthen the healing process, but it opens you up to a risk of infection.
- Stage 5 – The Healed Sore: Within 8-10 days, the body should be able to fight back against the virus fully. You’ll notice the scabs and sores start to fade away. The skin underneath may be a bit sensitive for a while and may be slightly red. However, once the scabs are gone, you’ll know you’ve recovered from the flare-up.
How to Treat an Itchy Cold Sore
Again, a cold sore will heal on its own with time. The itching sensation you might feel is a part of that healing process. It’s a good sign that the sore is healing. But, it can be extremely tempting to scratch and pick at itchy scabs.
Because cold sores are fairly common, there are many over-the-counter medications available to alleviate itching and pain. Additionally, several home remedies work very well, too. While none of these treatments will get rid of the virus causing the outbreak, they can reduce the symptoms of the sore as it heals.
What Over-the-Counter Medications Can I Use?
Over-the-counter creams and gels for cold sores typically have antiviral properties. This will help to fight against the virus causing the blisters in the first place. They can reduce pain and itching, and speed up the healing process.
A topical anesthetic, such as benzocaine, can also help to relieve itching. Look for an over-the-counter cream with benzocaine as the main ingredient. Most will come in small tubes, so you can carry them with you wherever you go for fast pain and itch relief.
What Are the Best Home Remedies?
There are dozens of home remedies used to deal with itchy cold sores. To reduce pain, itching, and inflammation at home, try one of the following:
- Cold Compress: While not a permanent solution, placing a piece of ice against the scabbed sore for a few minutes can help to reduce discomfort. The ice will temporarily numb the sore, providing soothing relief.
- Aloe Vera: It also has antibacterial properties. Whether you use an aloe plant or an aloe vera gel, it can speed up the healing time of the scab. Plus, it also provides a cooling, soothing sensation for itchy cold sores.
- Milk: It contains proteins that work as antibodies against viruses. It also contains l-lysine. L-lysine helps to prohibit arginine, which is often associated with cold sore breakouts. A cold compress of milk can help to soothe any burning and itching.
Healing & Preventing Cold Sores That Itch
Cold sores are never 100% preventable. However, flare-ups can be brought on by everything from stress to a weakened immune system. Trying to reduce your stress levels and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help in preventing the virus from taking over.
Take comfort in knowing that an itchy cold sore means that it’s healing. It’s a natural healing process that doesn’t always feel great. Thankfully, trying some of the solutions above to soothe the itching and burning sensations can help the process feel less overwhelming. Avoid picking at itchy scabs, and let the blister run its course with the help of an additional treatment solution.