8 Lifestyle Changes That Can Prevent Cold Sore from Recurring

  • Medically reviewed by Emina Ribic (MD) on September 12, 2018. Written by Linda White (MD).

Once infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), it’s with you for life. It remains dormant in the dorsal root ganglia, and there is currently no medical cure for this painful and ugly skin condition.

Understandably, you want to avoid a recurrence of cold sores. The good news is that there are ways to prevent cold sores recurring. You just need to introduce some simple lifestyle and dietary adjustments.

A compromised immune system may not be able to fight off herpes simplex one. You’re far more likely to experience recurrent cold sores than if you’re healthy. If your immune health is robust, the herpes virus is much more likely to remain in a dormant state.

While there is no full-proof way to prevent a recurrence of cold sores, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of activating HSV-1. It starts by understanding why people get fever blisters in the first place. We’ll then look at the things you can do to remain cold sore free.

How to Protect Yourself from Cold Sores

The best way to prevent recurrence is to avoid cold sore triggers (whenever possible). Knowledge is the key to prevention. If you carry HSV-1, you need to take steps to shield yourself from outbreaks and prevent transmission to people you come into contact with on a daily basis. Although it seems like a difficult task, this undertaking is surprisingly easy.

It is estimated that 50-80% of the population within the United States carries HSV-1.[1] It is also believed that roughly 90% of the general population will be exposed to the virus by the time they turn 50. While shocking statistics, these numbers CAN definitely be lowered.

By improving various aspects of your home and work life, you can keep HSV-1 at bay. The result is that you could be totally free from cold sores and have a much better mental, emotional, and physical standing. Doing the same things that haven’t worked in the past isn’t the answer.

1] Less Stress and Anxiety

Reducing your stress and anxiety levels is critical for daily living and cold sore prevention. Because stress and anxiety are known triggers, the more you can free your mind and emotions of stressors the better you will feel in the long run.

Reduced Workload

One way to avoid stressful situations is reducing your workload and changing how you work. If you’re a workaholic and are continually pushing yourself to the limit, easing off the gas could help. Step back for a moment and evaluate your job performance relative to your stress level.

Rome was not built in a day. Freeing yourself from work issues that are out of control can help immensely. If you are biting off more than you can chew at work, it is wise to take a step back from your responsibilities. You have to pace yourself before your body breaks down completely.

You’ll likely improve your health, thus reducing the probability of an outbreak, while potentially increasing your on-the-job performance. Less can sometimes be more when it’s done the right way. And don’t let the people that you work wind you up and feel tense. Learn to switch off.

Relaxation Techniques

Techniques that help you to relax can enhance your body and mind.

Staying calmer can help you to avoid a fever blister outbreak. Introducing meditation, yoga, quiet time, etc., can improve your state of well-being. Taking breaks during the day and escaping the office for a while is crucial.

Exercise Routine

Exercise improves your physical wellness and clears your mind of problems.

It leads to the release of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and it’s this that helps your body to handle stress more efficiently.[2] Also, feel-good endorphins are released which means that you’ll naturally feel more upbeat and positive about life. Better things tend to happen when you feel more buoyant.

Incorporating 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine can have significant benefits for your immune health. Because HSV-1 is a virus that has no cure your body is continuously working hard to keep it under control (dormant).

Prevention of cold sores through exercise

2] Better Sleep Routine 

Allowing your body to rest and recharge is critical when it comes to keeping HSV-1 dormant.

Although we view each day in stages of 24 hours, your body is continually running the race. Without proper sleep and the opportunity to recharge, it will begin to falter. Establishing a healthy sleep routine enables your body to work for you optimally during your times of need.

Here are some things you can do to sleep better at night:

Go to Bed Earlier

The act of going to bed early can prevent cold

sores, considering that sleep disturbances were found to be a trigger for cold sore outbreaks.[3] A good night’s sleep will make you feel re-energized, healthier, and function better. If you are more productive, you probably won’t need to work as many hours to get the same (or better) results. This will give you more time to relax outside of the workplace.

Knowing when it’s time to “turn off” for the day is a valuable lesson, but many of us find it difficult to fall asleep. That’s why we’re going to explore some of the things that will enable you to fall asleep more easily. You need to slow down your mind and avoid the use of electronic devices.

Sleep Aids

Not all sleep aids involve the taking of sleeping pills. There are foods, supplements, and essential oils that help with sleep.

  • Foods rich in tryptophan can promote sleep. Tryptophan is found in nuts, seeds, and turkey.
  • Calcium and magnesium can help you sleep. Try drinking milk a couple of hours before going to bed.
  • The use of essential oils through aroma sticks can set a nice mood for sleep. Lavender oil and sandalwood are just two of several pleasant-smelling aromas that can promote a relaxing and restful environment.

Sleep Devices

The use of a sleep device can introduce a pleasant atmosphere if your natural surroundings are keeping you awake.

Here are two options:

  • White noise machines. They use relaxing sounds to block out any noise and create an environment that’s conducive to sleep.
  • Humidifiers. These are also excellent sleep aids as they serve to clean the air and give you a fresh and calming environment.

3] Preventative Home Remedies

The introduction of home remedies is a good preventative measure. From lip balm to over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, natural remedies can provide a welcome boost to your immune health.

L-Lysine

The amino acid known as L-lysine or lysine is believed to prevent acne, age marks, and wrinkles. Lysine is also used as a cold sore prevention supplement for many years.

Found in beef, chicken, cheese, and turkey to name a few, lysine can also be consumed in supplement form.

  • Important: Food selections that are high in lysine, yet low in arginine, are preferred. Arginine is an amino acid that is believed to trigger cold sores, while some studies suggest that lysine may offset the adverse effects of arginine.[4]

Lemon Balm

A lemon balm has a soothing and moisturizing quality that can keep your lips healthy. Lemon balm is an antiviral remedy that can inhibit HSV-1 and prevent it from attacking your healthy skin cells. Applying lemon balm on a daily basis can help to protect your lips.

Zinc

Found in foods such as beef, chicken, pork, spinach, and squash, zinc can build your immune system and prevent cold sore recurrence.

Also available in a wide variety of supplement forms, the direct application of topical zinc (zinc oxide/glycine cream) can reduce inflammation.

Vitamin C

The recommended daily vitamin C (ascorbic acid) intake helps to improve your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, 65-90 mg of vitamin C a day is optimal. Vitamin C can also fend off both bacterial and viral attacks.

Although the acidity found in orange juice could potentially trigger a fever blister, you can find this vitamin in a variety of foods and snacks. You can also get vitamin C through health supplements.

4] Keep Your Immune System Strong

From food and drink consumption decisions to vaccinations, cold sores are kept at bay when your body is healthy. We’ll now explore some of the things that you can do to keep your body in an optimal state.

Avoid Specific Foods

From foods that are spicy or acidic. Spicy food continues to burn your lips long after the meal has been consumed.

Foods that are high in arginine can also be a trigger. Arginine is an amino acid that has been linked to cold sore recurrences.

Listed below are selections that you should avoid:

  • Sodas (high acidity)
  • Citrus fruits and drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Grain cereals
  • Beer

Vaccination against Flu

Receiving an annual flu shot will help you to avoid severe illness and keep fever blisters at bay. Because the flu is so potent, and even fatal in rare cases, getting the flu can weaken your immune system. When your body comes under serious distress, it has no way to fend off HSV-1.

If is beneficial to have healthy eating habits and to keep your body in shape, but it is also wise to get vaccinated against flu annually, considering mutations that occur in flu virus almost every couple of months.

Smoke and Drink Less

Reducing your alcohol and tobacco consumption is beneficial to your health. Both alcohol and tobacco can be taxing on your body. Placing harmful chemicals on your lips/mouth and into your body will weaken your body’s resistance and recovery powers.

How to prevent recurrent cold sores

Drink Plenty of Water

Water provides you with peak hydration and flushes your system of harmful toxins, so it plays a very important role in preventing herpes outbreaks. It is recommended to consume at least 2 liters or half a gallon of water per day.[5]

If you replace harsh acidic sodas with water, then you will be doing your body a favor.

5] Avoid Extreme Weather

Extreme cold and extreme heat can harm your lips and serve as a cold sore trigger. While casual exposure is not likely to cause an issue, prolonged exposure to intense environments will.

If you enjoy relaxing by the pool during the summer months or partaking in outdoor winter activities, you could fall victim to fever blisters.

Stay Out of the Sun

Intense heat is not a friend to your skin. While it will probably feel quite nice for a time, some severe damage can be done.

Intense heat from the sun can lead to cold sores and also make active blisters harder to heal. This is why protecting your lips with sunscreen lip balm is so critical. The more you can shield your lips from the sun, the less likely you are to activate the herpes simplex virus.

Keep Out the Cold Weather 

Keeping your lips and body protected during extreme cold is essential. The reasons are two-fold.

Cold weather can damage your lips and lead to illness. Keeping your lips protected while also protecting your immune system is equally important.

  • A wind-blocking chapstick and layered clothing are critical.
  • Covering your head is a must during brutally cold weather conditions.

6] Watch Out for Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can significantly impact the chances of a cold sore outbreak. Hormonal swings can introduce a host of physical changes in the body that can result in mood swings and stress. This general tension can harm the body and weaken the immune system.

Optimizing your overall immune health during these critical times can offset any negatives that may occur. By drinking plenty of water, getting exercise, and enjoying a solid sleep routine, your immune health should remain strong.

Your primary goal during hormonal changes is not to stop them but rather to face them with a plan.

Here are three common hormonal changes that often affect women:

7] Avoid Trauma to the Mouth and Lips

Trauma to the lips and mouth can provide a gateway for the herpes virus. While this is less common than other triggers, injury (cuts, cracking, and abrasions) can be a problem.

Listed below are three scenarios that can activate the virus:

  1. Dental trauma due to braces or extensive dental work can harm your lips. Because it is common practice for your mouth to be held open for long periods of time during dental work your lips can become dry and even crack. Once you return home, lubricate your lips with a chapstick.
  2. Whether accidental or intentional, biting your lip can be a problem. This is especially troublesome if the biting produces blood and swelling. Ideally, your lips should be moist and free from harm.
  3. Shaving near to the mouth can lead to minor cuts and abrasions. While harmless on the surface, they can pose a threat. Try to calm and soothe the area with a healing balm.

8] Don’t Share Items with Others

Sharing items that have come into contact with your mouth (or the mouth of another person) should be avoided. It can lead to a cold sore recurrence and viral transmission.

Noted below of a list of items that should always be off limits:

  • Drinks/cups
  • Chapsticks/lipsticks
  • Utensils
  • Toothbrushes
  • Shaving razors
  • Cigarettes

How to Stop a Cold Sore in the Early Stages

The best way to stop cold sores is to be proactive. Applying treatment, such as Virulite Electronic Cold Sore Device, during the tingle/prodromal stage is most effective.

Cold sores will always give you a warning sign. In most cases, you have 24-48 hours to apply an OTC treatment before the blister stage. This time frame is critical as it can be the difference between having a 10-day outbreak or one that lasts no more than 72 hours.

Although you never want to become experienced when it comes to treatment, knowledge is power. If you sense that a cold sore blister recurrence is likely, it is vital to act fast.

While there is no cure for HSV-1, there is hope in knowing that you can prevent a cold sore before it happens. That alone can sometimes be enough to avoid large and painful fluid-filled blisters.

 

References

  1. Giraldo D, Wilcox DR, Longnecker R. The Type I Interferon Response and Age-Dependent Susceptibility to Herpes Simplex Virus Infection. DNA and Cell Biology. 2017; 36(5):329-334. doi:10.1089/dna.2017.3668.
  2. Szuhany KL, Bugatti M, Otto MW. A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Journal of psychiatric research. 2015; 60:56-64. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.10.003.
  3. Marin M, Harpaz R, Zhang J, Wollan PC, Bialek SR, Yawn BP. Risk Factors for Herpes Zoster Among Adults. Open Forum Infectious Diseases. 2016; 3(3):ofw119. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofw119.
  4. Roberts JJ, Solanki NS, Kurmis R, Lammerink S, Wong KL, Greenwood JE. Prophylaxis against herpes simplex virus reactivation in patients with facial burns: a potential role for L-lysine. J Burn Care Res. 2013; 34(6):e368–9. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3182685b59.
  5. Grandjean, A.C. (2004) Water Requirements, Impinging Factors, and Recommended Intakes. World Health Organization

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