Counseling Sheet

Fever Blisters and Sunburn

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Cold sores or fever blisters are the bane of life for some individuals. Others escape ever having a single fever blister, and some have the fever blisters only after some kind of trauma, such as sunburn. Fever blisters often start in late childhood and recur from time to time, causing the person to have a painful lesion on the lip for as much as a week or 10 days. A fever blister begins with a red spot, proceeds to a blister, becomes a crusted lesion, and finally a shallow ulcer. The entire course of the disorder can be substantially shortened by a very simple treatment.

When the red spot begins, or even before that if there is a bit of tingling and burning, the afflicted person should put an ice cube on the lesion and hold it there for 30 to 60 minutes. Usually the fever blister will be entirely eradicated by this simple measure.

Fever blisters are caused by a type of herpes virus generally referred to as Herpes I or Herpes simplex I.

Sunburn should always be avoided. Sunburns cause not only fever blisters, but other problems which can be best avoided. If the person will time the length of sunlight exposure, one should be able always to avoid sunburns.

The sun can burn the skin so that it ages more rapidly, and causes the skin to be more susceptible to various diseases of aging such as keratoses, pigmented spots, warty lesions, etc. Sunburns can also alter the pigment of the skin so that such disorders as depigmented spots or small areas of vitiligo may occur. Freckling and other pigmented spots may become permanent after a severe sunburn. The human body should always be treated delicately, and should not be abused in any way, even by getting too much sunshine.

Too much sun can also injure the skin in the disease psoriasis, causing a flare-up of psoriasis. In individuals who are especially sensitive to the sun, they can become feverish, even developing a fever up to 102° or 103°. Very sensitive individuals can develop low blood pressure and even fainting. The source of the low blood pressure is the dilation of blood vessels in the skin which draws much blood to the surface with a relative lack of blood in the interior.

One man who had innumerable fever blisters all his life stopped having them, and never had another when he stopped eating chocolate. Once he had a piece of devil's food cake and a fever blister suddenly reappeared. It was probably the chocolate, but sugar could have played a part.

It is felt that the herpes virus may be linked to cancer of the mouth. If you are subject to fever blisters, that is another reason why you should never smoke. Powdered goldenseal may be applied to a fever blister with a toothpick, moistening it with a bit of water. Often the pain and swelling will be substantially relieved.

In order to prevent fever blisters one should also keep the extremities well clothed. The body can be attacked easier by viruses if one has chilled extremities. Avoid emotional tension as that promotes the onset of fever blisters. Limit the use of concentrated foods, since the defense mechanisms of the body are handicapped if the blood is having to deal with a load of sugar, salt, oil, and other heavy nutrients. We should always eat as little as we can get by with as long as weight is maintained.

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Seale, Alabama 36875