Cold sores are a types of herpes infection that affects your mouth causing sores and other symptoms. You can test yourself for cold sores using a home swab test kit.
Herpes infections can’t be cured so if you have cold sores you may need regular treatment for outbreaks. This is known as ‘acute treatment’. You may also need ongoing treatment to avoid regular outbreaks. This is called ‘suppressive treatment’.
About test kits and treatments for cold sores
Who can order cold sore test kits and treatments online?
You can order cold sore test kits if:
- You’re over 18
- You think you’re having cold sore symptoms
You can order cold sore treatment if:
- You’re not allergic to the treatments offered
- Your immune system is not suppressed
- You don’t have any kidney problems
How to order online
You can place an order for treatments or test kits using the following steps:
- Fill out a short online assessment questionnaire
- Place your order and make a payment
- Your order will be checked to make sure it’s right for you
- For treatment, you may be required to upload photos of your symptoms
- If your order is approved it can be sent to you by post or you can pick it up from a local post office
- It your order is not approved your payment will be refunded
How to use the test kit
Your test kit will come with instructions that should follow carefully to make sure you get accurate results. Follow these steps to use your test kit:
- Take the swab out of your test kit
- Swab the area that you think is a cold sore - if you have a sore or a blister it is best if the swab is taken directly from it. You may need to break the blister
- Place your swab into the tube provided
- Post your sample to the lab using the prepaid envelope provided in your kit
- Your results will be available 1-3 days after you sample reaches the lab
- Your results will be displayed in your patient account. For security and privacy reasons we won’t email your results to you
Common side effects of cold sore treatment
Aciclovir can cause the following side effects:
- headaches and feeling sick
- tummy pain
Cold sores are small blisters that appear on or around the edge of the lips. They can split and bleed slightly which can be painful. Cold sores are common and affect men and women of all ages.
A cold sore develops when you are infected with either Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) or Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) around the mouth. This is usually contracted via direct contact with another person who has a cold sore, such as kissing, or by sharing toiletries such as lip balm. It can also be caught via oral sex with someone who has genital herpes.
Being infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 will not always cause symptoms. Usually people who have an infection will have outbreaks from time to time but can go for long periods without any symptoms. It isn’t fully understood why an outbreak happens, but some things seem to trigger them – for example if you are unwell anyway (coughs colds, flu), if you are stressed or run down, if you are on your period, or if you spend time in bright direct sunlight.
Cold sores can affect anyone who has come into contact with the virus. Once you have been infected, a cold sore can flare up at any time but can be managed with appropriate treatment.
You have a higher risk of catching the virus if you:
- kiss someone with unhealed cold sore blisters
- share cosmetic products with someone who has cold sores
- have oral sex with someone who has genital herpes
To reduce your risk of cold sores you should avoid direct contact with someone else’s cold sores. Cold sores are often triggered when you are run down or stressed so if you have the infection, you should avoid these triggers to prevent an outbreak of symptoms.
The main symptoms of cold sores are visible blisters around your mouth. Development of a cold sore blister starts with a strange tingling sensation on or around the lips. Small blisters then form and can crack and bleed which can be painful.
Cold sores are not generally dangerous but can sometimes be distressing or uncomfortable.
A cold sore test kit is a way of checking if you have cold sores without having to take a test in person.
The test is posted to your door or a post office for you to collect. It contains a swab which you use to collect a sample from the area that you think might be a cold sore. You then post this to our lab for checking.
The results of your test will be displayed in your account. You can then see whether or not you need to get treatment or if your symptoms are being caused by another condition.
Cold sores can be treated with antiviral medication, which helps your symptoms go away faster (acute treatment) or helps to stop symptoms from coming on, if you are getting a lot of outbreaks (suppressive treatment)
We offer the following cold sore treatments:
- Aciclovir for acute treatment
- Aciclovir for suppressive treatment
A course of suppressive therapy can reduce the number of cold sore outbreaks you have over a period of time, this is usually taken for 6 to 12 months. It is usually helpful if you have more than 6 outbreaks in a year. The short course treatment therapy helps to ease a current outbreak more quickly.
National Health Service (2018). Genital Herpes. NHS. [online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/genital-herpes/ [accessed 15th November 2018].
National Health Service (2018). How to use self help kits safely. NHS. [online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-use-self-test-kits-safely/#when-you-get-your-results [accessed 15th November 2018].
Patient.info. (2018). Genital herpes. patient.info. [online]. Available at: https://patient.info/health/sexually-transmitted-infections-leaflet/genital-herpes#nav-6 [accessed 15th November 2018].