Is using ice on a cold sore a good idea?

It’s cold. Cold as balls.

In fact, hold ice over your skin for more than a couple of minutes and it’ll probably start hurting before the numbness takes over.

So then, why is ice such a go to remedy for some people when it comes to dealing with cold sores?

It seems that on any herpes or cold sore related site, there’s a bunch of people who swear by it and say that it’s the only remedy they use for outbreaks.

Then again, many other people say that it did nothing for them.

I tried it a couple of times, and it didn’t do much for me.

It could be that I didn’t have the mental fortitude to hold it over my cold sore for the amount of time recommended (20 plus minutes in some cases), or that I didn’t do it enough times per day for it to have any effect (up to 5, depending on who you ask).

But have you ever wondered what ice actually does to cold sores or to skin tissue in general?

Well, after doing some research, I’ve found that ice is probably nothing more than a pipe dream for dealing with cold sores.

Here’s why.

As you probably know, ice is often used as part of treatments for injuries like sprains and contusions. And it’s been used for a long long time in this context.

But it turns out that it’s mostly for the pain. See, ice slows down the rate at which nerve terminals send signals to the brain. And if less signals are sent, the less pain you end up feeling (it’s a bit more complicated than that in reality, but you get the idea).

And in the case of cold sores, a bit of pain relief nothing to scoff at. The burning and tingling is so damn uncomfortable that anything that can alleviate that is A-OK in my book.

But as far as helping to stop the viral activity of herpes? It probably doesn’t do much, if at all.

See, applying ice to injured tissue is used to reduce inflammation at the spot of injury. However, inflammation is a critical element of how your immune system works. It’s the mechanism that allows it to send the necessary elements to clean up foreign bodies and help repair the tissue (like white blood cells).

In other words, ice slows down the rate at which your immune system can step in and start fighting the herpes virus.

Not good.

And sure, lowering a tissues temperature reduces it’s metabolism, which in the case of cold sores means slowing down the replication rate of the virus itself.

But you’re slowing down your own immune system as well. So at best, you’re probably just delaying the inevitable by a few hours. Because if the tingling, burning and pain has already started, it means that your skin cells are already infected.

And slowing that process down to a crawl will only make your outbreak last longer.

So really, it’s kind of creates a band-aid situation. Do you pull it off slowly and let the anguish last longer or do you rip it off quick and be done with it?

Hey, if you’ve tried ice and it worked, more power to you.

Personally, I’ll be using a clinically proven treatment such as Abreva to help stop the spreading of the virus instead of just slowing it down.


Chris “the Cold Sore Killer” Mueller

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Chris "the Cold Sore Killer" Mueller