Over-the-counter and prescription medications for oral herpes may be big business, but many of the estimated 145 million Americans infected with the HSV-1 virus rely on home cold sore remedies to treat their affliction. The reasons for this phenomenon vary as much as the individual sufferers themselves - running the gamut from financial considerations (home remedies often utilize inexpensive items found in most households) to choices based on idealogy. Just as the motivations for pursuing home treatment options vary, so too do the treatments. Despite this, it is possible to identify numerous similarities between the most-commonly practiced home remedies.

Important First Steps When an Outbreak Begins

At the first sign of an oral herpes outbreak, there are two important steps that you should immediately take to limit the eruption of cold sore blisters:

1. Cover the sores with petroleum jelly, and...

2. Do not poke at, squeeze, or otherwise unnecessarily touch the sores!

Regardless of which additional home cold sore remedies you choose to apply as your breakout progresses, it is vital that you follow these two aforementioned steps. The application of petroleum jelly will protect the blisters against rupturing (thereby slowing the spread of the virus), reduce the likelihood of the sores becoming infected, and also accelerate the healing process. Avoiding unnecessary contact with the blisters also aids in achieving these goals.

Methods for Shortening the Outbreak

Because there is no cure for the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores, it is impossible to stop a herpes outbreak once it has begun. Fortunately, there are methods by which the duration and severity of the outbreak can be reduced. Many practicioners of home remedies use some combination of four, easily-found items to accomplish this:

1. Milk

2. Ice

3. Real licorice

4. Zinc lozenges

Applying ice and cold milk (using a cotton ball as the applicator) topically to cold sores is effective at not only reducing pain and swelling in the blisters and surrounding tissues, but at kick-starting the healing process as well. Meanwhile, ingesting licorice (the real stuff, not the licorice-flavored candy commonly sold at the supermarket) and zinc lozenges is believed to slow the spread of the virus and dramatically reduce the duration of the herpes outbreak. Most home cold sore remedies include some combination of these items.

Reducing the Recurrence of Future Outbreaks

Completely eliminating future oral herpes outbreaks is impossible since there is no cure for the HSV-1 virus. It is possible, however, to reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks if you take precautions against the triggers of herpes outbreaks. Triggers will be different for most people, but three of the most common are believed to be:

1. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light

2. Long periods of stress

3. Prolonged periods of fatigue

Although the exact reasons are still unknown, research has shown a strong correlation between excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (from either direct sunlight, or tanning salons) and the onset of oral herpes outbreaks. For this reason, it is recommended that exposure be kept to a minimum, with sunblock applied around the mouth and lips when it is unavoidable. Stress and fatigue are also known triggers, and are best combatted with regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and a healthy diet.

While it is true that researchers differ on their opinions of home cold sore remedies, the material discussed in this article represents the basis for any number of self treatments practiced by many Americans who suffer from oral herpes. If you decide to try any of the methods outlined in this article, keep in mind that their relative effectiveness is likely to vary from person to person. Additionally, as is always the case, it is recommended that you solicit the opinion of a trained health care professional before beginning your treatment.