Let's be real, cold sores are uncomfortable and embarrassing. And while they're not usually painful, they can be, and they're unsightly. And they're contagious, which means you can spread them to others, which you want to avoid. So what can you do?
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). This virus is present in millions of people's bodies and is usually harmless. But it can be triggered to outbreak by a variety of factors, including stress, illness, sun exposure, fever, and menstrual cycle. While the virus is active, it reproduces in the skin, tingling, and itching before it erupts in a painful and unsightly blister.
When cold sores erupt, they're often painful and can last up to 10 days, although a majority of outbreaks last 5-7 days. While they're painful, they're also contagious. They can be spread when the sores are active, and even after they're healed because the virus is present in the body's mucus membranes (the lining of the mouth and nose, as well as the genitals).
The good news is that it's possible to control your outbreaks with the right treatment.
While there's no cure for herpes, there are a number of antiviral medications available that can help you manage your outbreaks and keep your outbreaks from developing into full-blown cold sores.
The most common medication prescribed for HSV-1 is Valacyclovir, or Valtrex.
What is Valacyclovir?
Valtrex (or the generic form valacyclovir) is a prescription drug that is used to treat genital herpes, shingles, cold sores and chicken pox. This drug is an antiviral medication, which means that it works by preventing the virus from reproducing. This slows down the process of the virus, which helps to relieve symptoms and keep the virus from spreading.
Because Valacyclovir works to slow the replication of the HSV-1 virus, it can help to reduce the symptoms of a cold sore outbreak.
How to Use Valacyclovir for Cold Sores
Taking Valacyclovir for your cold sores is simple.
You can take Valacyclovir in pill form, or in a liquid that you take by mouth. The dose that is prescribed to you by your doctor will depend on your weight, but will also be based on the severity and frequency of your outbreaks.
For example, if you have an average of 3 outbreaks per month, you may be prescribed 500-1000 mg of Valacyclovir each day. However, if you have more frequent or severe outbreaks, you may be prescribed a 2000mg dose every day.
The dose will also vary depending on whether you take Valacyclovir for your cold sores or genital herpes.
Cold sores, also known as oral herpes, are most commonly caused by HSV-1. They usually appear on the lips, face, and inside the mouth. You can get them by sharing food or drinks with an infected person, or kissing an infected person.
Genital herpes, also known as herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes sores on the genitals and surrounding areas.
The medication you're taking for your cold sores will be based on the specific condition you're being treated for. For example, if you're taking Valacyclovir for cold sores, you will likely be prescribed 2000 mg for 7-10 days.
However, if you're taking Valacyclovir for genital herpes, you will likely be prescribed a higher dose of Valacyclovir 2 times per day for 7-10 days.
How to Use Valacyclovir Genital Herpes
The treatment for genital herpes using Valacyclovir is a very simple process. The patient needs to take the drug in pill form, and it can be taken with or without food. The dosage for the drug is different depending on the weight of the patient. The patient should take the medication for 10 days in a row.
Most adults are prescribed around 500 milligrams per dose, and should take about two doses per day.
The drug should be taken in a timely manner, so it is important for the patient to keep track of the time of day that the medication is taken. It is also important for the patient to take the medication as directed, even if the symptoms of the outbreak are gone.
Valacyclovir is only effective when taken at the first sign of an outbreak, and it will not cure the condition. The patient will need to take the medication for a period of six months after the initial outbreak to prevent any further outbreaks.
Dosage of Valacyclovir for Shingles
The recommended dosage of Valacyclovir for shingles depends on an individual's height and weight, but it's typically around 1000 milligrams (mg) for adults, and should be taken around three times a day for seven days. The recommended dose for children should be calculated by your doctor.
Valacyclovir Dosage for Suppressive Therapy
For long-term suppression of herpes, the recommended dosage of Valacyclovir is between 500-1000mg daily, and this depends on the individual's height and weight. The dose is usually taken once a day.
Side Effects of Valacyclovir
The most common side effects of using Valacyclovir are mild to moderate. These side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
Less commonly, the patient can experience severe side effects, but these are very rare. These side effects include:
- Decreased vision
- Irregular heartbeat
- Allergic reaction (skin rash, hives, itching)
If any of these side effects occur, the patient should stop taking their medication as prescribed and get medical help immediately.
IMPORTANT: Valacyclovir is not an option for everyone. It is important that the patient talks to their doctor before taking this drug. Patients who are allergic to Valacyclovir, or who have certain kidney or liver diseases, should not use the drug.