Health Nutty

What’s That on Your Lip?

Be thankful I didn't take a picture of my mouth for you to enjoy.

I am cursed with a problem I will never be 100% rid of, that I’m in danger of passing on to my husband and any children we may have, that is embarrassing and aggravating and often quite painful. I get cold sores or (as we called them growing up in my family) fever blisters. Yep, the old herpes simplex virus. I’ve always gotten them, for as long as I can remember. They suck, but I’ve learned to live with them. And as of yesterday afternoon, I’m living with one right now.

I don’t get them too often any more. Over the years, I’ve mostly figured out what triggers them and try to avoid those things. For example, sun exposure causes cold sores (WebMD confirms this) in a lot of people who have the virus, so I try to make sure I’m always wearing lip balm with at least a 15 SPF in it. But oh, the one thing that causes them that I seem to have so little control over is stress. And this is undoubtedly a stress-induced cold sore. March is insane for me. Busy at work, busy at home, all month long with little break. And of course, when I figured out that one was coming on yesterday afternoon and tore apart my purse and my desk to find my Abreva, it was nowhere to be found. I had nothing with me, and wasn’t going to get home until 10 pm and didn’t have time to go buy something at the store.

If you are also prone to these nasty things, you know that they usually don’t get too bad if you can catch them early, right when you first feel that itchy tingle and notice a small bump forming. If you can medicate it right then, it will stay small and go away quickly. But when you can’t – when it just grows and grows without any medication for 7 or 8 hours like mine did yesterday – it might be a bad one. It will be large – very embarrassing. It will hurt. It will probably bleed at some point. In other words, it SUCKS. I did manage to find some old, old medicine when I got home last night, and even though it was long expired (over 10 years ago, folks!), I stuck it on there anyway, just in case it had some latent power to banish the evil forming on my mouth. (And you’d better believe it’s going back in its drawer to guard against some day in the future when I once again can’t find either of the two new tubes of Abreva I bought at the store today.)

Why am I writing about this? I don’t know; maybe because I’m sharing something about myself, something that puts me in a bad mood, and maybe because I don’t want to suffer alone. My husband does not get cold sores, and we’ve striven in the nearly 9 years we’ve been together to keep it that way. We’re careful when I have one, not really kissing on the lips much until it’s gone. I love him, and I don’t want him to suffer through this when he doesn’t have to. And I know I don’t have it all that bad – at least I only ever get them on the outside of my mouth. I understand some people get them inside and around their nose and inside their mouth. As badly as mine hurt, I can’t even imagine how awful one would be on the inside of me. Also good – the fact that I can buy Abreva over-the-counter, when as a kid we used to have to get prescriptions for Zovirax. But I am human, and misery loves company. So let me hear it – who else suffers from the Evil Fever Blister/Cold Sore? How do you deal with it? Have you found any effective methods of keeping them at bay?

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