When you are worrying about exams and spending hours studying, or dealing with ever increasing workloads and looming deadlines, the last thing you need is a cold sore. Up to 90 percent of all people get at least one cold sore in their life1, and they can be triggered by stress2 and anxiety3.

Despite the name, a cold sore or fever blister is not caused by the common cold or a fever but a virus that lies dormant in the nerve cells in the lips. There are many triggers that can cause a cold sore to flare up, including stress, anxiety, the change in season, UV radiation (sun exposure) and a weakened immune system1,2.

Cold sores, or fever blisters, are small painful blisters that can appear around the mouth, face, or nose2. They start with a slight tenderness or tingling on the edge of the mouth3. About 24-48 hours after the tingling sensation,  blisters start to form1. As the cold sore progresses, it breaks and oozes to form a yellow crust or a scab which eventually falls off, revealing new skin underneath1. Cold sores tend to appear in the same place every time because the virus lives in the nerves that lead to that spot on the skin3.

People can contract the virus (HSV-1)1 through direct contact with someone who has the virus, typically through kissing or touching or indirectly by touching or sharing utensils2.

Unfortunately, once you contract the virus, you have it for life. The virus lies dormant waiting to be reactivated to cause symptoms2,3. One of the common triggers around this time of the year is stress, whether it be exam stress, the stress of completing work before year end or stress associated with the family and the festive season. Emotional stress can increase the likelihood of developing a cold sore2,3.

Cold sores can heal without leaving a scar4 and they usually go away on their own within 1 to 2 weeks2, although some cold sores can take up to 4 weeks to heal4. While there is no cure for cold sores, topical antiviral treatments can help clear up a cold sore faster and relieve discomfort5.

Acitop; the market leader in cold sores and fever blisters6 is a topical antiviral cream that prevents the virus from multiplying7, thereby reducing pain and helping to relieve a cold sore in 5 days8*.

Treatment with Acitop should be started as early as possible once the cold sore symptoms start and should be reapplied every four hours7,8.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life but there are way and means to manage it. These include taking adequate breaks and relaxing, ensuring that you get enough sleep, performing stress relieving exercises such as meditation and eating correctly9.

Cold sores are also more likely to occur when your immune system is weakened10. Boosting your immune system by eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, taking steps to avoid infection and minimising stress, can help11.

Sunscreen and good lip care can also protect your lips from potential cold sore triggers like sunlight and cracked lips10.

* Individual response may vary. Treatment should be initiated as soon as possible following onset of signs and symptoms of a cold sore and should be continued for 5 days. If healing has not occurred, treatment can be continued for up to 10 days.”

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.


Scheduling status: S1 Proprietary Name (and dosage form): ACITOP cream. Pharmacological Classification: A 20.2.8. Antiviral agent. Composition: Each gram of cream contains 50 mg of Acyclovir. (5,0 % w/w Acyclovir). Preservative: Chlorocresol 0,12 % m/m. Reg. No. 32/20.2.8/0719. Marketed by: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Limited. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15E Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3550/19



  1. Web MD. What are cold sore? (2019) at (website accessed on 6 October 2019)
  2. Teen Health. Cold Sores (HSV-1) (2019) at accessed on 6 October 2019)
  3. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School (2015) at (website accessed on 6 October 2019)
  4. Mayo Clinic. Cold Sores. (2018) at (website accessed on 6 October 2019)
  5. Pringle, C. Herpes Simplex Virus Infections. Merck Manual 2018
  6. Acitop approved package insert, June 2003
  7. IMS Data D6D Top Viral INF Products. November 2018
  8. Spruance, S. L. et al. Acyclovir Cream for Treatment of Herpes Simplex Labialis: Results of Clinical Trials. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 46, 2238 -2243 (2002)
  9. 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress (2016) at (Website accessed on 14 October 2019)
  10. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Can cold sores be prevented? (2018) at (Website accessed on 25 October 2019)
  11. Harvard Health Medical. How to boost your immune system (2014) at accessed on 25 October 2019)