Anyone who gets cold sores knows what a pain (literally) they can be. Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), these uncomfortable lesions on the lips and face can be triggered by stress, such as the onset of a cold or other illness, menstruation, sunburn, fatigue, even emotional trauma. The good news is that cold sores usually go away on their own within 10 days; the bad news is the virus remains dormant in nerve cells, and can reappear to initiate another outbreak. Help lessen the risk of recurrent cold sores with the following:
- Avoid foods rich in the amino acid arginine, which can activate the virus. These include chocolate, cola, beer, grain cereals, chicken soup, gelatin, seeds, nuts and peas.
- Get a new toothbrush after an outbreak subsides. The virus can live in your toothbrush and re-infect you. Also, help prevent the virus from getting into the toothpaste (and re-infecting you and others in the family) by not touching the brush to the tube.
- Always use SPF 15 sunscreen before going out in the sun (summer and winter) and use a lip moisturizer with sunscreen.
- Since the HSV is highly contagious, don't kiss or shake hands with anyone who has a cold sore. And avoid these contacts when you have one.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently.
- Avoid sharing towels and utensils with anyone who has a cold sore.
Managing stress can be a powerful prevention tool as well.