Cold sores from cold weather are an unfortunate reaction to low temperatures during the winter months. It is estimated that more than eight out of ten people carry the herpes 1 virus, so you’re not alone. The virus remains in a dormant state but, when triggered, the outcome is that cold sores pop up. In some very rare cases, the herpes simplex 2 virus may also be behind the problem.
The herpes 1 virus lives permanently in the nerve cells, and the immune system ensures that the virus remains in a dormant state. If exposed to one of the triggers, which will be discussed shortly, the virus will suddenly become active and the symptoms visibly evident.
Common Cold Sore Triggers
The most common trigger of cold sores is contact with a person who has the virus. Since it is highly contagious, anyone with active herpes simplex 1 or 2 will potentially be able to infect a healthy person. Exposure will trigger the dormant virus in the nerve cells which will then become active and multiply. And it can multiply extremely quickly.
Cold sores are most common around the lips. They can be painful, itchy, and very uncomfortable. For some, they may not be painful at all. Aside from touching or coming into contact with people who have cold sores, there are other known triggers. Cold weather is a trigger for cold sores. Dry and cold weather alike can cause the lips to crack and it’s this that makes you vulnerable to the virus.
Other common triggers include fatigue, menstrual periods, fever, skin infections, physical stress, psychological stress, any kind of irritation on the skin around or on the lips, sunburn or direct and long exposure to sun, pregnancy, sleep deprivation, unhealthy lifestyle choices and poor general health. Diets can also contribute to cold sores but aren’t typical triggers or facilitators. Since diets affect the strength of the immune system, what you eat cannot and should not be ignored.
Preventing Cold Sores from Cold Weather
The best form of prevention is to protect your face from freezing temperatures. When the mercury starts to dip, ensure that you wear warm clothes, keep your head and face concealed with a scarf, use a good lip balm or moisturizer to retain the softness of the lips, to avert cracks and dryness, and you should of course ensure impeccable hygiene.
If you are at risk of cold sores or if you have a history of them, then you should be even more careful. You should stay away from known carriers. Even if you have to work with people who have cold sores, make sure you don’t shake their hands and wash your hands after touching door handles and office equipment. When you do open a door, avoid touching your facial area until you have cleansed your hands thoroughly.
Don’t share toothbrushes, towels, cups and cosmetic products, especially lipstick. Don’t share anything, from cutlery to bed sheets and pillows. Be particularly cautious when the other person’s cold sores are weeping or oozing. When blisters ooze, that is the source of the virus. Once a crust has developed over the blister, it is fairly safe but you should still be careful.
Dealing with Cold Sores
It is quite possible that, despite your best attempts, you will fail to protect yourself. It may not be someone passing on the virus to you, but your own immune system failing to prevent the virus, perhaps because you’re fatigued due to excessively long hours at work. Whether you have cold sores from cold weather or they are facilitated by some other cause, you must respond in an informed manner.
The areas affected may experience numbness, itching, tingling, burning and/or pain. These symptoms are most noticeable in the first twenty four hours. The blisters form within a day and they will usually turn red. Over the next few days, a clear liquid will form inside and start to ooze. The oozing liquid will form a yellow crust in the first week. As the scab forms, there will be some dryness and itchy sensations. There can be discomfort during the first week. The crust will usually harden in about ten days and in a fortnight the crust should break open.
Cold sores on the lips or cheeks usually heal faster than those around the nostrils or inside the mouth. They can develop near the eyes, but it is rare. You should resist scratching or breaking the crust as you don’t want to spread the infection. You don’t want to make things worse by spreading the infection or causing any scarring.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
The diagnosis of cold sores from cold weather is very simple, although they are sometimes mistaken for spots. A quick physical inspection will lead to an informed diagnosis. You don’t need to be subjected to any tests. In rare cases, where symptoms of certain serious ailments exist, a doctor may recommend that certain tests are performed. Frequent cold sores from winter weather can indicate a weakening or already weakened immune system.
They will eventually heal on their own, but there is no known cure for cold sores. Viruses cannot be cured by antibiotics or conventional drugs. The virus should be allowed to run its course. Eventually, the immune system will counter the growth and it will become dormant again. Of course, you can cover up a cold sore with a Compeed invisible patch, for example.
Certain antiviral medicines including topical creams or ointments definitely help, such as HERP-B-GONE. There are many balms, gels and creams to consider. You can also take medication to get some relief from the pain. Doctors may recommend certain dietary changes to aid the healing process. Usually, rest and a proper diet will help to resolve the problem.
If you have a history of suffering from cold sores from cold weather, dress more warmly (keep your mouth covered when outdoors, for example) and modify your actions in the company of others. Avoid working long hours, get plenty of rest, and eat a healthy diet.