How to Get Rid of an Infected Cold Sore

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An infected cold sore can be difficult to get rid of unless you follow proper procedures. Get rid of an infected cold sore with help from a practicing pediatrician in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Keep Your Body Healthy
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to talk about how to get rid of infected cold sores. Now, that's kind of, kind of repetitious, because all cold sores are infections. The question is, what kind of infection? Usually when we say cold sore, we are thinking about a herpes virus infection. Now, people get very excited because herpes virus can cause a sexually transmitted disease. However, when we're thinking about cold sores on the mouth, those are often the very same viruses, just in a different place. Getting a cold sore on the mouth doesn't mean that you've ever had sex with anybody, or that you had a sexually transmitted disease, it just means you have herpes on the mouth. Now, there's some other sores on the mouth that can look a lot like herpes cold sores, but be caused by different infections. Children, especially, can get little ulcerations all over the inside of the mouth, sometimes those are caused by herpes. Other times, they're caused by viruses like Coxsackievirus, that causes hand, foot and mouth disease. There's really no treatment when that's the cause, and it can be very difficult to tell which virus is the cause. Sometimes, we try and make a guess. What if the cause is a herpes virus? Well, there's some topical agents, like Abreva or Zovirax Topical, that can be used. They're not terribly effective. Whatever you start, you want to start in the first one or two days. More effective is to take something by mouth, and the two drugs that are usually used for this are Acyclovir and Valacyclovir. As you can tell, they're closely related. Whatever you use, you really do need to start it in the first two days. After that first 48 hours, chances are treatment is not going to make much difference in how the disease progresses. A note here, if you've got cold sores in the mouth and they also seem to be going around the eye or in the eye, that's an emergent condition that needs to be seen and treated aggressively and immediately. Now, sometimes you'll see yellow crusts on mouth sores, and that may be creeping up under the nose, or around the mouth or up the face. Sometimes that's not a viral infection, but a bacterial infection called Infantigo, that's usually caused by a strep bacteria or a staff bacteria. We often use oral antibiotics that are effective against these bacterial, and sometimes also topical creams that are antibacterial to stop the spread of that infection. If you have any question about what's going on with an infected cold sore, your best bet is to get a doctor to take a look at it. Sometimes, we even have to do studies, such as cultures, for virus or bacteria to distinguish what's going on. Talking about how to treat an infected cold sore, I'm Dr. David Hill.


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