Tingling or itching around the lips is a distressing signal that a cold sore is on its way for sufferers of this chronic, recurring condition. The cluster of tiny blisters that soon appears is painful and can be embarrassing. Is it possible to stop a cold sore in its tracks? Toothpaste is one home remedy that's sometimes recommended as a cold sore preventative, but the jury is still out on its effectiveness.
Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is responsible for cold sores, and toothpaste contains a chemical that may suppress the virus. After the initial infection, HSV-1 lies dormant in the body until something triggers it to become active, and a cold sore develops. According to the Wound Care Society, the toothpaste ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) suppresses the activity of the virus. The society claims that if you apply toothpaste at the first sign of a cold sore outbreak, the sore may never appear or it won't last as long.
Only anecdotal evidence supports the idea that toothpaste is effective as a cold sore preventative. Though some people claim that toothpaste prevents their cold sores from appearing, researchers haven't carried out studies to investigate the facts. What's more, according to How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore, some doctors believe that SLS in toothpaste can actually cause cold sore attacks.
If you'd like to try using toothpaste to prevent cold sores, apply a thin smear of a white, non-gel toothpaste to the place where you feel the itching or tingling that precedes a cold sore. Apply the paste before going to sleep at night and every hour or couple of hours during the day. To remove the toothpaste, wipe it with a soft flannel soaked in warm water. You can also use toothpaste in the same way to help dry out the blisters if the cold sore appears, and return your skin to normal quickly.
According to the University of Michigan, sunlight is a trigger for cold sores, so covering the skin around the lips with sunblock every day reduces the risk of an outbreak. In addition, stress, fatigue, and even an upset stomach may trigger a cold sore. Unfortunately, no natural remedies have been proven to be effective in the treatment or prevention of cold sores, but taking care of yourself and paying attention to what triggers your cold sores may help you stay one step ahead.
Prevention is better than a cure, and cold sores are usually a sign of stress or poor oral health. Smearing toothpaste on the itchy or tingly patch won't do any harm, and it may prevent the cold sore from making an appearance.