Cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lip and around the mouth. The affected skin surrounding the blisters can become swollen, red and sore. All in all, the cold sore is a painful and unsightly feature to have around your mouth.
Most cold sores run their course before healing but you can try some natural remedies to treat them and heal them faster. One of the more popular remedies to try involves using tea tree oil for cold sores.
Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic so there is no doubt that it can help with the condition. But before we take a look at how tea tree oil can help, let us first see what a cold sore actually is.
What Is A Cold Sore?
Cold sores are also known as fever blisters. When they remain untreated, the skin may break open and the blister start to leak a clear fluid. This is often followed by a scab forming over the skin.
Cold sores are caused by a virus, which penetrates the body when there is a break in the skin inside or around the mouth. The virus spreads when an infected individual touches a cold sore. The same can also happen when someone kisses the infected person or uses their utensils or shares their personal items.
Even though cold sores are highly contagious, they are not dangerous. The sore remains contagious until the blister is completely crusted over. You are most contagious when the blister shows up and just after it bursts. Once the skin is fully healed and starts to look normal again, the virus cannot spread after that. However, you can pass on the virus through saliva, even when there is no cold sore.
A large number of people suffer from cold sores at some point or the other. In fact, statistics tell us that those who do suffer from cold sores, get infected 2 or 3 times a year. However, this figure can differ from one person to the next.
What Are Some Common Symptoms Of Cold Sores?
If you want to use tea tree oil for treating cold sores, you first need to know the symptoms of the condition. For example, in the beginning you may feel some pain around the mouth area or on your lips. This will be before a cold sore become apparent. You may also experience a sore throat or feel that the glands in the neck have become swollen. Younger children may start to drool before a cold sore becomes visible.
Once the blister forms, the sore will often break open and leak. This will be followed by a crust forming over the sore which can become itchy and irritating. Typically, cold sores will go away after a few days up to 2 weeks.
How Can You Treat Cold Sores?
Most cold sores usually heal by themselves in a few days. However, if they become painful or cause you embarrassment, you can treat them yourself. You can use topical options like ointments or skin creams. Or you can make your cold sore disappear by using homemade treatments like using tea tree oil for cold sores.
You also need to keep in mind that using treatments for cold sores will not make then go away any sooner. If anything, treatments will probably only get rid of the sore by a day or so faster. That being said, treatments will, however, help ease the pain and discomfort of cold sores.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Now that you know what cold sores are, here is a quick introduction to tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is extracted from the Australian native plant known as melaleuca alterniholia. The oil is a volatile essential oil that is renowned for its potent antiseptic features and the ability to heal wounds.
Since it is a very strong essential oil, tea tree oil should not be used undiluted when applied directly to the skin. Instead experts recommend using it with another carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. You can also dilute tea tree oil with a few drops of water before using it to treat skin conditions like acne or cold sores.
Apart from using tea tree oil for cold sores, it also offers a number of other uses. The oil can be used for preparing homemade cleaning products or diffusing it in the air as an insect repellent or to kill mold. The oil also functions as a natural deodorant or an acne face wash.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores
Cold sores are not only a source of pain but also a source of distress for sufferers. People who suffer from cold sores can feel very bothered and anxious by the sore’s unsightly appearance. This can make them socially and emotionally insecure when they are around other people.
That is why many people decide to take cold sore treatment into their own hands rather than wait the cold sore out. Among the several natural treatments available, one that stands out is using tea tree oil for cold sores.
Tea tree oil is rather well recognized in alternative medicine for curing skin conditions. And while tea tree oil for cold sores does not yield immediate results, it can play a part in speeding up the natural healing process. Its antiseptic features also help prevent further infection of the sore.
How to Apply Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores?
To apply tea tree oil for cold sores you can follow a few different treatment procedures:
- Apply tea tree oil at the first sign of an itching or tingling sensation.
- Use a cotton swab to apply tea tree oil.
- Dip swab in oil and apply directly to the cold sore.
- Take care not to touch any of the surrounding skin as this can cause skin irritation.
- Repeat during the day as needed.
- Remember to apply tea tree oil before going to bed nightly.
- Remove the loose, crusty material that develops during ulceration of the sore. This can be done by rubbing the affected skin gently with a warm washcloth.
- Reapply oil mixture after removing crust.
- Continue application until scab disappears and new skin grows.
Repeated application can reduce the duration and frequency of the outbreak.
Use a tea tree oil lotion mixed with apple cider vinegar. This potent astringent lotion that can be prepared at home by this method:
- Mix three drops of the oil with one tablespoons of the vinegar.
- Stir well and apply to the cold sore.
- Leave in place for 45-50 minutes before washing.
- Reapply a few times every day.
For sensitive skin, blend tea tree oil with another essential oil for curing cold sores.
- Mix 8 drops of tea tree oil and geranium oils each.
- Add in 3 drops lemon oil and 5 drops lavender oil.
- Follow with another 6 drops of chamomile oil.
- Blend well.
- Use 2-3 drops of this mixture on a cotton ball and apply directly to the cold sore.
- Keep in place for a few minutes and then wash off.
- Repeat treatment 2-3 times every day.
The fact that tea tree oil is a natural astringent makes it a suitable treatment for cold sores. Not only does its application help kill bacteria and sterilize the wound, it also prevents the spread of bacteria.
Take care to keep lips moist with lip balm during the tea tree oil treatment. This is important as the oil can cause the healthy parts of the mouth to become dry.
Where To Purchase Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil for cold sores can be purchased at most drugstores and health food stores. You can also get it at large discount chain stores. The oil comes in a small apothecary style bottle and is often placed in the health and beauty isle of the store.
If you cannot find it anywhere, then look online for a lot of variety.
Caution When Using Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores
Using tea tree oil at full strength may cause some skin irritation. That is why the oil is usually diluted with another oil or other ingredients like water or honey. Treatment requirements differ based on the type of treatment. For instance, treating acne with tea tree oil only needs 5 -15% tea tree oil but fungal infections need 70-100% tea tree oil.
For skin treatments like cold sores, start with a low concentration until you are able to determine your tolerance for the oil. Another consideration is to identify if you have an allergy to the oil before using it. To do this, apply a small amount to your inner arm to see if any reaction occurs.
It is very important to NEVER ingest or swallow tea tree oil.
What Else Can I Do to Treat Cold Sores?
Other than using tea tree oil for cold sores, you can also manage your symptoms by following this routine:
- Place a cool, wet facecloth on the sore at least 3 times every day for about 20 minutes. This canhelp with reducing, pain, swelling and redness.
- Take an NSAID such as Advil or Tylenol to manage the pain.
- You can also use a mouth rinse that contains baking soda. This can help soothe a sore mouth.
- Avoid eating citrus fruits or others that contain acid.
- You can use some non-prescription ointments like Abreva or Orajel to speed healing. Some of these can help prevent cold sore outbreaks if applied early enough while others help numb the sore areas of the mouth.
- Also, try to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight. If you have to go out then use a lip balm that comes with sunscreen protection. This may help with reducing the outbreak of cold sores.
- Try to stay away from foods that may cause cold sores to recur. For example, many people find that they experience fewer cold sores if they avoid eating foods like chocolate, nuts or gelatin.
How to Prevent Cold Sores?
The virus that brings on cold sores does not simply go away. Instead, it can remain dormant in the body for long periods. In fact, after a person gets infected, the virus remains in their body for the rest of their life.
This is a very frightening prospect, but if you do suffer from cold sores frequently, then know that treatment can help. Treatment can significantly lower the amount of cold sores you get as well as reduce the severity of the infection.
Just remember that there are several commercial treatments marketed as cold sore remedies. Yet, many of them do not help and only slightly improve the condition. Which is why a lot of people turn to natural remedies like tea tree oil for cold sores instead.
At the same time, if you are prone to getting cold sores often, you should know how to prevent them. Some tips you can follow to reduce the frequency of outbreaks can include the following:
- Avoid triggers which can bring on cold sores. These include factors like stress, influenza or common colds.
- Make it a habit to wear sunscreen and lip balm regularly. Exposure to a lot of sunlight can also trigger cold sore flare ups.
- Refrain from sharing towels, utensils or other items that can easily spread the virus. This is important to do since the virus lives in saliva and can spread if people share drinking glasses, straws or kitchen utensils. The same goes for sharing bathroom essentials.
- When you do get a cold sore, always keep your hands sanitized by frequent washing. Avoid touching your sore so that it does not spread to other body parts, or infect other people.
- Consult with your doctor, if you suffer frequently from cold sores. Your doctor may prescribe pills to minimize outbreaks.