Fever BlistersPage 2 of 4
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What are the treatments for fever blisters?
Currently there is no cure for fever blisters.
Some medications can relieve some of the pain and discomfort associated with
the sores, however. These include ointments that numb the blisters, antibiotics
that control secondary bacterial infections, and ointments that soften the
crusts of the sores.
Canker Sore and Fever Blister Medication
Is there a vaccine for fever blisters?
Currently there is no vaccine for herpes
simplex virus available to the public. Many research laboratories, however, are
working on this approach to preventing fever blisters. For example, scientists
at the National Institute of Dental and
Craniofacial Research and the
National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases have developed a promising experimental herpes
vaccine. In tests on laboratory mice, the vaccine has prevented the herpes
simplex virus from infecting the animals and establishing itself in the
Although these findings are encouraging, the
scientists must complete more animal studies on the safety and effectiveness of
the vaccine before a decision can be made whether to test it in humans. The
vaccine would be useful only for those not already infected with herpes simplex
What can the patient do?
If fever blisters erupt, keep them clean and
dry to prevent bacterial infections. Eat a soft, bland diet to avoid irritating
the sores and surrounding sensitive areas. Be careful not to much the sores and
spread the virus to new sites, such as the eyes or genitals. To make sure you
do not infect others, avoid kissing them or touching the sores and then
touching another person.
There is good news for people whose fever
blister outbreaks are triggered by sunlight. Scientists at the National Institute of Dental and
Craniofacial Research have confirmed that sunscreen on the lips can prevent
sun-induced recurrences of herpes. They recommend applying the sunscreen before
going outside and reapplying it frequently during sun exposure. The researchers
used a sunblock with a protection factor of 15 in their studies.
Little is known about how to prevent
recurrences of fever blisters triggered by factors other than sunlight. People
whose cold sores appear in response to stress should try to avoid stressful
situations. Some investigators have suggested adding lysine to the diet or
eliminating foods such as nuts, chocolate, seeds or gelatin. These measures
have not, however, been proven effective in controlled studies.
What research is being done?
Researchers are working on several approaches
to preventing or treating fever blisters. As mentioned earlier, they are trying
to develop a vaccine against herpes simplex virus. Several laboratories are
developing and testing antiviral drugs designed to hamper or prevent fever
blister outbreaks. Researchers also are trying to develop ointments that make
it easier for antiviral drugs to penetrate the skin.
Acyclovir is an antiviral drug that prevents
the herpes simplex virus from multiplying. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved
the drug for use in treating genital herpes, and is considering its approval
for use in treating oral herpes. Researchers have found that acyclovir taken
in pill form reduces the symptoms and frequency of fever blister
recurrences in some patients. In one study, 50 percent of patients who took
four acyclovir pills daily for 4 months had no fever blister outbreaks. Before
taking the drug, they had an average of one recurrence every 2 months. In
separate studies, pills taken at the onset of symptoms or acyclovir cream
applied to the blisters or to areas of the lip that tingled or itched were
found to be only minimally effective. The long-term effects of daily oral doses
of acyclovir are not known, nor are the effects the drug might have on an
Basic research on how the immune system
interacts with herpes simplex viruses may lead to new therapies for fever
blisters. The immune system uses a wide array of cells and chemicals to defend
the body against infections. Scientists are trying to identify the immune
components that prevent recurrent attacks of oral herpes.
Scientists are also trying to determine the
precise form and location of the inactive herpes virus in nerve cells. This
information might allow them to design antiviral drugs that can attack the
herpes virus while it lies dormant in nerves.
In addition, researchers are trying to
understand how sunlight, skin injury and stress can trigger recurrences of
fever blisters. They hope to develop methods for blocking reactivation of the
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