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Applying ice on a cold sore can be effective in relieving some of its inflammation, but it is not a cure. Individuals may want to use ice at the first signs of an outbreak, applying it to the sore every hour for roughly five minutes at a time and not longer than a total of 15 minutes. The beginning stages of formation are when it is most effective. Sufferers will usually get a feeling of tingling in the skin of the affected area that alerts them to a potential outbreak.
Using ice will not cure the infection or prevent its recurrence. In fact, there is no known cure for the virus that causes cold sore outbreaks. The ice provides temporary relief from the swelling and inflammation, but it is not guaranteed to speed up the recovery and healing process.
It can be helpful to use the ice to reduce the unsightly appearance of the sore. Ice constricts the blood vessels in the skin that become irritated as a result of the virus. The cold temperature will most likely temporarily reduce the size of the sore. Any surrounding redness and inflammation are also likely to be reduced.
Ice can also help alleviate some of the pain associated with cold sores. The relief is likely to be temporary, but the remedy can be used in conjunction with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin. The patient needs to use the ice multiple times to alleviate the pain.
Some of the side effects of putting ice on a cold sore include temporary numbing of the affected area, but this usually subsides within a few hours of application. It can also be somewhat inconvenient to have to keep applying ice every so often in order to achieve the desired results. Those who use this treatment should also be careful to not allow the ice to come into contact with other people, as the virus that causes cold sores is very contagious. A few individuals also find the application of ice to the skin to be somewhat uncomfortable, especially if they are sensitive to cold temperatures.