Act fast with herpes
Many people never have any symptoms, while others have to cope with lip herpes again and again. This is because the viruses can be activated by stress, UV radiation, fever or general immunodeficiency. They then move along the nerve fibres to the lips and cause an infection there. The process is always the same – people who are regularly affected know the first signs very well. In the early stage, which takes six to 48 hours, the affected area itches and tingles. The skin reddens, then dense, fluid-filled small blisters shoot up. In the course of a week, the blisters dry up again. The crusts fall off and reddened spots remain for a few days. The whole thing can be more or less painful and can vary in intensity from case to case. Sometimes the local lymph nodes may swell up accompanied by a slight feeling of sickness. Five to ten percent of people who carry the virus experience more than five episodes per year. Others may have cold sores only very rarely or just once.
Unlike angular cheilitis or rhagades, lip herpes is contagious: the herpes viruses spread to other people through droplet or smear infections. People affected should therefore not touch the area around the mouth with their fingers and avoid physical contact (especially kissing) with babies and small children, immunocompromised persons and the aged so as not to infect them. Such an infection can take a severe course for them.
Lip herpes is usually treated topically. A whole range of preparations are available for treatment. The basic rule is: The earlier the treatment begins, the better the effect. It is best to start the therapy at the very first signs. In most cases, virostatic agents such as Aciclovir (for example Aciclostad®, Acic®) or Penciclovir (Pencivir®) are used. One product contains not only Aciclocir but also hydrocortisone, which is said to help wounds heal faster (Zovirax® Duo).
Special care products for the lips are designed to protect the sensitive skin. For years, there has been a controversial discussion about whether the mineral oils often contained in lip care sticks are harmful to health. From the point of view of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), however, health risks are not to be expected. The contents of aromatic hydrocarbons in products have been greatly reduced by the technological purification process commonly used today. Those who want to be on the safe side, however, must study the list of ingredients carefully or use certified natural cosmetics, as these must be per se free of mineral oil components.
A classic in the treatment of herpes is melissa extract (Lomaherpan®). Its antiviral effect is mainly attributed to the rosmarinic acid it contains. The patient should continue using the cream for up to ten days after the symptoms have improved. It has not yet been proven whether this can prolong the interval, as is hoped, until the next outbreak of herpes. In contrast to acyclovir and pencivir, no resistance development of the viruses to melissa extract has been observed so far. It therefore represents an alternative if the two drug substances are no longer effective.
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Taking the pain away
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