Get the Cold Sore Truth

Cold sores may be a common health condition, but they certainly pack a punch for sufferers.  When it comes to fighting off cold sores fast, knowledge is power. So here, courtesy of Nancy Simonot, spokesperson for Abreva and NKS Health pharmacist, are a few cold sore truths to set the record straight on proper treatment.


Cold Sore 101

  • Cold sores are blisters occurring around the lip area caused by a reactivation of the herpes simplex virus (HSV).  These can appear as a single blister or a cluster.
  • Cold sores are common and contagious. They can cause pain, itchiness, redness and if left untreated can last from six to 10 days.
  • Although up to 90 per cent of adults carry the cold sore virus, only 20 to 40 per cent will experience outbreaks. Some sufferers can develop cold sores an average of two to three times a year.

Why Me – Why Now?

  • Approximately one third of Canadians suffer from cold sores each year.
  • Once contracted, the virus never leaves the body.  After the first outbreak it remains dormant in the facial nerves, until something triggers it to manifest again.
  • Common triggers are extreme cold & wind, fatigue, stress, sun exposure, hormonal changes, mouth trauma, cold & flu and dry skin.
  • To prevent spreading the virus, don’t touch your cold sore, keep your hands clean and don’t share items that come in contact with your mouth such as food, utensils, or towels.

Mars versus Venus

  • Abreva recently commissioned a survey by Harris/Decima to learn more about Canadian cold sore sufferers.  Among Canadian cold sore sufferers, almost as many men suffer from the cold sore virus compared to women (11 per cent versus 16 per cent respectively).
  • One in ten women report they would miss work or social events due to a cold sore outbreak, five per cent of men admit they would too.
  • Even the strong silent types (men) are impacted by cold sores and admit to feeling self-conscious (43%) and embarrassed (28%).
  • What would some Canadians say they would be willing to give up for a month to be cold sore free?  You might be surprised:
    • Sweet-Talking:  Canadian guys (34%) and gals (35%) are on par with ditching the dessert.
    • Unplugged:  14 per cent of men would be willing to put their smartphone on the line and even more women would do the same (18%).
    • Bye Bye Shopaholic:  Men and women are almost tied when it comes to giving up shopping for a month to be cold sore free (19% versus 22%).


Snapshot of Canada:  Treatment Myths

  • Moisturizing Myths: Compared to Quebecers (9%), Western Canadians (21%) and Ontarians (25%) are more likely to believe ingredients like camphor, menthol and phenol will shorten cold sore healing time but they actually moisturize or soothe it. They are not meant to block entry of the virus spreading to surrounding healthy skin cells.


  • Tea Relief Belief: Almost one quarter of cold sore sufferers in the age group of 18 to 24 believe that placing tea bags on a cold sore will heal it (22% compared to 7% of those 35 and older).
  • Vinegar Hoopla: All Canadians are just as likely to believe distilled vinegar will prevent cold sores.

Top Five Tips for Fighting Cold Sores:

1)    Boost your immunity by getting plenty of rest, exercising and eating a balanced diet as worn-down immune systems may find it harder to keep the virus inactive.

2)    Watch for common triggers that may cause a cold sore outbreak

3)    Treat your cold sore early and continuously by keeping your cold sore treatment handy and applying at the first sign of an outbreak (usually a tingling feeling or a red bump) until it heals.  Look for products that contain the medicinal ingredient, docosanol, which will speed up healing when applied at the first sign of a cold sore.

4)    Use a cold sore treatment that contains real medicine. Abreva contains docosanol, an active medicinal ingredient that helps block the virus from entering skin cells, limiting it from spreading to surrounding healthy skin cells.  Abreva is clinically proven to shorten the duration of a cold sore.

5)    Moisturize your lips at all times which includes staying hydrated and using sun block on your lips in both the summer and winter.

Survey Methodology

The Abreva cold sore sufferer survey was conducted by Harris/Decima from November 24th through December 12th, 2011.  The survey was conducted via teleVox, the company’s telephone omnibus, with a representative sample of 390 Canadians who suffer from cold sores, ages 18+.  The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 5.0 %, 19 times out of 20.