Healthy Living

How to Prevent Cold Sores

How to Prevent Cold Sores

Cold sores are small blisters that start with itching, tingling, or a burning sensation around the mouth.  After a day or two, fluid-filled blisters will appear.  The sores are commonly seen on the edges of the lower lip.

The herpes simplex virus or HSV is the main cause of cold sores.  The virus is typically spread from one person to another through direct contact with the blister or saliva.  The virus is most infectious during the first few days the blister forms.  It is also possible to spread the virus without showing symptoms, as the virus can stay inactive in skin cells around the lips.

Have a question aboutCold Sores?Ask a doctor now

Symptoms typically do not appear during initial exposure to herpes simplex.  Outbreaks occur when factors like stress and illness are introduced,  after which outbreaks can occur regularly.  In cases where the primary infection caused the symptoms, the condition can be severe.

If the cold sores become very troublesome, an anti-viral tablet like acyclovir can help suppress them.  Acyclovir must be taken every day for a few months.  This treatment is only given when cold sores are causing multiple problems, and the possibility remains of the sores returning after treatment.

How to Avoid the Spread of a Virus

The fluid contained in blisters is considered infectious.  People must wash their hands after touching their cold sores.  In addition, you should under no circumstances touch your eyes after making contact with the sores.

If you have cold sores, you should avoid sharing cutlery, utensils, towels, toothbrushes and other personal items.  Also, you must avoid close contact with babies and newborns, children with burns, people with weak immune systems and those with eczema.  Avoid kissing other people.

For children with HSV, if they are unable to practice good hygiene, should stay at home until the blisters stop oozing.  The blisters should remain covered by dressing as much as possible.


Preventing the Recurrence of Cold Sores

Because there is no cure, it is important that you take steps to minimize the number of cold sore outbreaks.  Cold sores are most contagious when they rupture and will remain contagious until completely healed.  The following are helpful steps to prevent your cold sores from coming back:

  • Know what triggers cold sores and avoid it
  • Avoid getting ill
  • When you’re outside, wear sun block on the face including the lips  
  • Use lip balm that contains zinc oxide
  • Pay attention to your overall health
  • Manage and control stress
  • Don’t share your cold sore creams with other people

For people who are prone to developing cold sores or are at high risk of complications, antiviral medications are prescribed.  These medications must be taken on a regular basis.  For people who don’t have cold sores, do not engage in sexual activities with the infected to ensure the virus does not spread.