Cold sores can be annoying, painful and hard to get rid of – we asked the experts at Mibe Pharma for the latest treatment tips
What causes cold sores?
Cold sores are caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex. It is a very common infection with about 90 percent of the population seropositive. About 40 percent of people who have had a primary infection have recurrent cold sores. Recurrences typically occur 2–3 times a year but may occur up to 6 times a year1.
What are the symptoms of cold sores?
A cold sore goes through five stages2:
Stage 1: Tingling and itching occurs about 24 hours before blisters erupt
Stage 2: Fluid-filled blisters appear
Stage 3: The blisters burst, ooze, and form painful sores
Stage 4: The sores dry out and scab over causing itching and cracking
Stage 5: The scab falls off and the cold sore heals
Apart from being painful, cold sores can make you feel very self-conscious and cause emotional distress.
What are the drawbacks of conventional treatments for cold sores?
There is no cure for cold sores. After a cold sore has healed the virus continues to lie dormant in your body until it is activated again and causes another cold sore.
When cold sores do develop, there are several ways to treat them. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with the pain and a lip balm may help to stop the lips cracking when the sores have formed a scab.
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Aciclovir cream is also commonly used. The cream should be applied as early as possible and repeated every four hours for at least four days. A recent review considered the efficacy of acyclovir compared to placebo to be marginal at best, shortening the duration of pain by less than 24 hours3.
What is HERPOtherm®?
HERPOtherm® is a patented medical device for the local treatment of symptoms that accompany cold sores (herpes simplex labialis) such as itching, burning, tingling or tightness4.
How does HERPOtherm® work?
HERPOtherm® works solely by concentrated heat. The application of concentrated heat (local hyperthermia) is a physical mode of action based on a brief, concentrated application of heat to a small, limited area of skin. If applied early enough, HERPOtherm® may prevent the formation of cold sore blisters, but if applied after the cold sore develops, HERPOtherm® may relieve symptoms such as itching, burning, tingling or tightness.
How effective is HERPOtherm®? Is it a permanent cure?
HERPOtherm® can normally prevent the development of cold sore blisters if applied early enough. If applied later, the severity of symptoms may be lessened, or they may fade sooner. The first signs of an outbreak (so-called prodromal symptoms) are generally itching, burning, and tingling.
There is no permanent cure for infection with the herpes simplex virus.
How easy is HERPOtherm® to use?
HERPOtherm® is very simple to use.4
- Remove the protective cap from the device. Place the ceramic contact plate of the device onto the affected skin area and gently press it against the skin.
- Press the button and the ceramic contact plate will heat up to a temperature of around 51°C. Once this temperature is reached, a LED will light up. The LED will go off once the device automatically shuts down after 3 seconds of use.
- At the start of the heating-up phase and at the end of treatment, you will hear an additional acoustic signal.
- Place the protective cap on the device.
For persistent or recurrent symptoms, multiple treatment on the same area of the skin is possible.
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Please leave a treatment interval of at least two minutes between each application. Do not exceed a maximum number of five applications per hour on the same skin area. Please avoid using HERPOtherm® on ulcerated or broken skin.
Is HERPOtherm® suitable for everyone?
HERPOtherm® is indicated only for self-administration by adults and children aged 12 years and older. In children under 12 years of age, it should be used only with the assistance of an adult4.
As HERPOtherm® works solely by concentrated heat and is thus completely free from chemicals, HERPOtherm® is also suitable for pregnant women and allergy sufferers4.
How do I know when the battery needs changing?
When the battery needs changing, the LED will flash three times and the acoustic signal will sound three times4. To change the battery, the protective cap and battery cap must be removed, and refitted after inserting the battery.
Do not use rechargeable batteries.
How do I clean the HERPOtherm® unit?
The ceramic contact plate of the device can be easily cleaned with a standard alcohol disinfectant wipe; all other external surfaces, for example, with a clean cloth4. To prevent virus transmission and for reasons of hygiene, HERPOtherm® should only ever be used by one person.
Are there any other medical applications for the hyperthermia principle?
The same technology is used in the Bite Away® medical device. From the first application, Bite Away® can provide relief from the itching, pain and swelling caused by insect bites and stings. Further information can be found on the Bite Away website at http://www.mybiteaway.co.uk.
Where do I buy HERPOtherm® and how can I find out more about it?
HERPOtherm® costs £34.99 and can be used for roughly 100 applications before the battery needs replacing. It is available online from Amazon, eBay and Boots.com and stocked in Boots stores and independent pharmacies across the UK. For more information, please visit https://myherpotherm.co.uk/
UK/HERP/20/033 August 2020
- NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary available at https://cks.nice.org.uk/herpes-simplex-oral#!scenario Date accessed July 2020
- Healthline. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/herpes-labialis#treatment Date accessed Jul 2020
- A Systematic Review on the Efficacy of Topical Acyclovir, Penciclovir, and Docosanol for the Treatment of Herpes Simplex Labialis. Kimberly D.P et al, EMJ Dermatol. 2018;6:118-123. Available at https://www.emjreviews.com/dermatology/article/a-systematic-review-on-the-efficacy-of-topical-acyclovir-penciclovir-and-docosanol-for-the-treatment-of-herpes-simplex-labialis/ Date accessed July 2020
- HERPOtherm instructions for use. Available at https://www.herpotherm.de/files/downloads/Herpotherm_Instructions.pdf Date accessed Jul 2020