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Fever Blisters

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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 nerves.

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 virus.

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 unborn child.

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 virus.

Canker Sores


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