While on the slopes, skiers need to take special precautions to protect their lips against cold sores, says a Chicago dentist.
"Skiers need to constantly apply and reapply lip balm, ointments and even lipstick to decrease the chance of sun-induced cold sores," says Cheryl Watson-Lowry, D.D.S., a general dentist who practices on Chicago's South Side. "Skiers who are very active during the winter months should apply a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF or higher and they should reapply it frequently. Ski masks also are effective ways to block the elements and protect the lips. Lips are hard to protect because we constantly lick, rub or wipe them, which removes any protection and leaves them exposed to the wind, cold and the sun."
Cold sores look like a small cluster of blisters and they occur on the gums, roof of the mouth, nose and lips. Unlike canker sores, they can be contagious because these inflammatory lesions are believed to be caused by the same virus that causes herpes symptoms. Cold sores tend to appear in the same place and usually clear up on their own within 10 to 14 days.
The same ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn can trigger an outbreak of cold sores. Scientists and researchers are not yet sure how UV rays promote cold sores, but they believe the rays are responsible for lowering the immune response of exposed skin cells.
Dr. Watson-Lowry says that as much as 20 percent of Americans suffer from cold sores brought on by weather, citrus fruits, spicy foods, mild tissue injury or stress factors.
"Cold sores can be painful but are a cause for concern because they are contagious," says Dr. Watson-Lowry. "One solution for people who suffer from cold sores is to try a mouth rinse or toothpaste that contains triclosan, which is an antimicrobial agent with anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that ease the symptoms. Researchers believe that when triclosan dissolves in the oral cavity, it stabilizes and protects cells from irritating agents and bacteria that might cause cold sores. Look for triclosan on the product's packaging."
Dr. Watson-Lowry says that people who suffer from persistent cold sores should see their dentists for different dental treatments options. "If you have one or more persistent lesions that last longer than two weeks, especially if they are not painful, schedule an appointment with a dentist for an evaluation. Most people don't think to have their lips checked by a dentist, but it is entirely appropriate. Dentists are very familiar with this territory."
Skiing vacations don't need to be interrupted with lips that are cracked, swollen, tender or covered with cold sores, says Dr. Watson-Lowry. "Protect your lips and spend your time worrying about breaking a leg," laughs Dr. Watson-Lowry.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.