Most people are exposed to herpes simplex virus (HSV) when they are children. However, some contract the virus when they are adults. Once you have HSV, it cannot be cured, but changing some lifestyle activities can lower the risk of contracting it or having recurrent outbreaks.

Here are some of the tips for reducing your risk of contracting HSV or having recurrent outbreaks of cold sores:

Avoid Exposure to the Virus that Causes Cold Sores

HSV can be spread by close contact with someone who has a cold sore or by using items contaminated with the virus. Do not kiss, have close contact with, or share personal items (such as towels, razors, and eating utensils) with someone who has an active cold sore, or thinks he is about to have one. It can also spread to the genital area by having oral sex. Do not let a partner with an active cold sore perform oral sex on you.

Avoid Excessive Exposure to the Sun

Exposure to sunlight is known to cause outbreaks of cold sores. Although it is impossible to avoid all sun exposure, use sunscreen on your lips and skin to help reduce the sun’s effect. Also, whenever you go outside in sunny weather, wear a large-brimmed hat to protect your face from the ultraviolet rays.

Reduce Physical and Emotional Stress

Physical and emotional stress may reduce the body’s ability to fight HSV, and stress may trigger an outbreak of cold sores. Although exercise may actually help to reduce emotional stress, an excessive amount can weaken the body. Relaxation techniques , such as meditation and deep breathing, can help reduce emotional stress.

Practice Good Hygiene Habits

Good hygiene can prevent the spread of cold sores and help reduce the length and severity of the outbreaks. During an outbreak:

  • Avoid touching the sores, especially avoid contact with any open cuts on your skin.
  • Wash your hands frequently during the day.
  • Keep your fingernails clean by scrubbing daily.
  • Take care not to spread the virus to other parts of your body such as the eyes and genital area.

Avoid Certain Foods

Foods that irritate the tissue of the lips and mouth, such as certain fruits or spices, may trigger a cold sore outbreak. These food-related “triggers” are different for every person. Be aware of your trigger foods and avoid them.

Get Adequate Sleep and Eat a Healthful Diet

The body heals fastest when it receives rest and good nutrition. Strive for a good night’s sleep, along with a balanced, healthful diet .