Don't let a cold sore leave a blemish on your big celebration Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virusAn outbreak can be caused by stress and tiredness



22:01 GMT, 22 December 2012

It is the ultimate festive season horror – the sudden appearance of a cold sore.

Caused by the herpes simplex virus and usually occurring around the mouth, this painful blister typically clears up without treatment in seven to ten days.

After someone has contracted the virus – through close contact – it remains mostly dormant, but it can be activated by triggers, resulting in an outbreak of cold sores.

A party nightmare: Cold sores are the ultimate festive season horror

A party nightmare: Cold sores are the ultimate festive season horror

These include fatigue and stress, which is why many suffer during the party season.

In the final part of our Christmas party MOS series, we ask the experts how to treat the dreaded pre-party cold sore.


If you think you are at risk of developing a cold sore, try an ointment containing an antiviral such as acyclovir.

‘I use Zovirax [5.59, 2g,] during the party season,’ says Jo Martin, clinical director of the Mapperley Park Clinic in Nottingham.

‘Rubbing some in two to three times daily up to a week before an event ensures I don’t get one.’

The first sign of a cold sore is a tingling or bruised sensation around the mouth. It is important to act immediately to stop it becoming unsightly.

‘If you have cold sores regularly, get a prescription for acyclovir tablets from your GP,’ says Dr Mayaud. ‘Privately, it’ll cost around 6.50 for a course. Never use this as a preventative measure as it is possible to develop a resistance.’


Keep taking the tablets if you’ve started, or start now. Infrared-light therapy has been clinically proven to eliminate a cold sore within three days, too.

‘Using the Virulite infrared device [39.95,] for three minutes, three times a day for two to three days has been shown to get rid of a cold sore, even when the full blister has developed,’ says Dr Dougal Gordon, a GP and electronic engineer who invented the Virulite device, available on NHS prescription.

Once you’ve given the area a blast with the Virulite, apply Zovirax cream, which can be used up to five times that day. Professor Tony Nash, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh, says: ‘Be rigorous and rub it in, even if it’s uncomfortable, to ensure it penetrates deep into the blister.’

Act fast: The first sign of a cold sore is a tingling or bruised sensation around the mouth

Act fast: The first sign of a cold sore is a tingling or bruised sensation around the mouth

For those who know Zovirax isn’t effective for them, a high street cream containing new antiviral docosanol is available (Blistex Cold Sore Cream, 6.29,

There are natural solutions, too. ‘A study has suggested combining pure peppermint oil and manuka honey is more effective than acyclovir,’ says natural health expert Philip Weeks.

‘I suggest making up a small pot of cream with a ratio of one tablespoon of manuka honey to three drops of oil. Mix well and dab it on four times daily until the day of the party. Ensure the sore is covered before you go to sleep.’

Laser treatment is an option at this point. ‘Pulsed-dye lasers have been shown to be effective,’ says Jo Martin. ‘They work in a similar way to infrared gadgets by stimulating the body’s immune response – except that the dose is much more intense so just one session is needed.’ Sessions start from 30 and last five minutes (


If your cold sore isn’t abating, or seems to be getting worse, do not hesitate to use the Virulite device more than recommended – the only negative is having to hold it to your mouth.

‘It won’t do any harm and I have had lots of anecdotal feedback that blasting it for three to five minutes every hour has noticeable effects,’ says Dr Gordon.

Philip Weeks recommends tackling cold sores from the inside as well. ‘Guzzle loads of lemon balm tea,’ he says. ‘It’s delicious and antiviral.’


If the cold sore still hasn’t disappeared, all hope is not lost – there is make-up.

‘A good liquid foundation such as Dermablend Fluid Corrective Foundation [13.15, 30ml,] will seep into the bumpy scab and cover it,’ says dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting.

‘Applying Zovirax or something similar will keep it moisturised and prevent it cracking. Because the hard crust will be fragile, build up thin layers of colour with a cotton swab.’

And if you do pull off the scab ‘You will probably be left with a wet surface that make-up won’t cling to,’ says Dr Bunting. ‘Compeed Cold Sore Blister Patches are transparent, adhesive and promote healing. Make-up will hold on to the invisible film.

‘If you’re a man and don’t want to be seen with a sore, subtly cover with make-up.

‘If you’re still really stressing about the blemish, distract from it by highlighting your eyes with make-up.

‘Obviously, this won’t be possible if you’re a man – so perhaps a jazzy tie will help!’