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.
, such as
and deep breathing, can help reduce emotional stress.
Practice Good Hygiene
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.
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,
Beers MH, Fletcher AJ, et al.
Merck Manual of Medical Information
. 2nd ed.
Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2003.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a