Risk Factors for Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Type 1)
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop cold sores with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing cold sores. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
The viruses that cause cold sores are easily spread. They come out of the skin and are “shed” from the site of the cold sore for 1-2 days before the sore appears. Then they are in the fluid of the cold sore blisters. Although cold sores typically form in response to stress or illness, they can sometimes form without an identifiable trigger.
Risk Factors for Becoming Infected With Herpes Simplex 1 Virus
Exposure to Someone With Cold Sores
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) can be spread by close contact with someone who has a cold sore or by using items contaminated with the virus. Kissing or sharing personal items, such as razors, towels, or eating utensils, with a person who has a cold sore will increase your risk of getting HSV-1. The virus you have can also be spread to the genital area of another person by having oral sex. People with cold sores should not perform oral sex on their partners.
Infants and young children (up to three years old) have an increased risk of being exposed to HSV-1.
Risk Factors for Developing Cold Sores
Exposure to Sunlight
Exposure to sunlight or other ultraviolet light is a common trigger for the formation of cold sores.
Physical Stress and Illness
Stress on the body due to illness or excessive exercise can weaken the body’s immune system and lead to an outbreak of cold sores. Common examples of stress or illness include:
Cold sore outbreaks commonly occur during times of emotional stress. The type of stress that activates cold sores is typically negative stress, instead of stress due to positive or normal life-changing events.
Beers MH, Fletcher AJ, et al. Merck Manual of Medical Information . 2nd ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2003.
Cold sore. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-sore/DS00358 . Updated July 2008. Accessed September 24, 2008.
Herpes simplex. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/default.htm . Accessed September 24, 2008.
Miller C. Oral herpes/cold sores essential facts. Australian Herpes Management Forum website. Available at: http://www.ahmf.com.au/oral_herpes/essential_facts.htm . Updated June 2007. Accessed September 24, 2008.
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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 medical condition.
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