90 percent of all people get at least one cold sore in their lifetime - says WebMD - and boy do we believe them. With winter gearing up this seems to be the season that these unwanted gifts pop up on our mouths. Good thing we’re not attending family dinners, friend gatherings, and work events! Oh… wait…
Here’s a quick guide to what cold sores are, how to prevent them, and what to do when Santa puts your mouth on the naughty list.
What’s a Cold Sore, Really?
Cold sore, (AKA Fever blister, AKA Herpes Labialis) has different aliases - whatever you call them, they’re caused by the herpes virus HSV-1. But don’t worry, it’s actually rare if you don't have it. The University of Maryland states up to 90% of the American population has been exposed to HSV-1. This virus is not dangerous but it is contagious and can be spread from kissing, drinking from the same cup, sharing razors, etc.
HSV-2 is another form of herpes contracted by sexual contact. While HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, it’s more uncommon. For info on the HSV-2 virus check out this piece.
Can I Prevent Them?
Possibly! But this virus never goes away, it just lies dormant. Some people get cold sores often, others receive only one in their lifetime. While you don’t have full control of what’s going on in your body, there are things we often do to poke this sleeping giant. Let’s look at what prompts cold sores for people who already have the virus:
Weak immune system
Excessive sun exposure
Here are some pro-active things you can do to help prevent cold sores - especially in times when you know your body is extra vulnerable.
Chill out - A low-stress life keeps your skin and body rejuvenated and youthful.
Sleep - Getting enough rest promotes a strong immune system.
Lysine - An amino acid that I personally swear by. When I started taking these during the winter, my number of cold sores were cut in half.
Sun Protection - Excessive sun weakens your immune system, which can awaken that sleeping virus. Use lip balm with an SPF when you’re enjoying the outdoors.
Quarantine loved ones - No kissing or drinking after the infected! This seems obvious, but sometimes we operate on autopilot and forget. Be extra cautious when your loved one has a blister.
I Have One, Now What?
Unfortunately there is no magic pill to make cold sores disappear overnight, although you can greatly prevent these intruders from becoming larger and more irritated. Here are a few recommendations that have been proven to work for many.
Aloe Vera - Antioxidants in Aloe Vera help treat cold sores and prevent further infection. Bonus: it’s 100% natural and feels extra soothing.
Zinc - A small study showed that zinc speeds up the healing process when used within 24-hours of cold sore onset.
Lysine - Great for prevention or from keeping an existing blister from getting out of hand. I pop Lysine as soon as I feel one coming on - usually in the morning.
Abreva - An over-the-counter cream that keeps blisters at bay. When you use it be careful, rubbing Abreva (or any other cream) around your mouth could spread the virus to other places. Dab a small amount on the sore only.
“Do unto others” - Protect the people in your life that you kiss and share personal items with. The virus can be contracted through touching the same surface, saliva, even sharing razors.
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