Ask: Dr. Nerdy How can I Prevent Cold Sores?

Ask: Dr. Nerdy How can I Prevent Cold Sores?

Cold sores, also referred to as fever blisters or oral herpes, are small fluid-filled sores that are caused when a person becomes infected with the herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) virus, which is not the same as the form of herpes responsible for genital herpes. Rather, genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) virus. Cold sores can be painful and itchy. In addition, they typically appear on the nose or on the mouth, which is quite unattractive.

Once your body has been infected with the herpes virus, there is nothing you can do to prevent outbreaks. While researchers believe that stress and illness, particularly the flu and the common cold, increase the likelihood of an outbreak, there is still no definitive answer as to what causes outbreaks. Furthermore, a particular event may trigger an outbreak at one time in your life and fail to trigger an outbreak at another time.

Nonetheless, individuals who have been infected with the HSV-1 virus can take preventative measures by living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a proper diet. Those who take steps to reduce stress, such as getting proper amounts of sleep and using relaxation techniques, are less likely to experience an outbreak of cold sores. In addition, outbreaks can sometimes be prevented when early signs, such as tingling, are recognized and topical creams or medications are used right away.

Unfortunately for those who become infected with the virus, there is no absolute cure for fever blisters. Rather, outbreaks come and go throughout the remainder of a person’s life. While there are medications to help shorten the length of time an outbreak lasts, there are no medications to completely prevent outbreaks. Furthermore, there are no medications or vaccines to cure the condition or to protect a person from acquiring fever blisters in the first place. Therefore, the best preventative measure with cold sores is to avoid getting them in the first place.

Cold sores are highly contagious, which makes them rather easy to catch from someone else. To prevent catching fever blisters, however, you should follow the same precautions you would to avoid catching any viral infection. When around someone with a fever blister, be sure to wash your hands and to avoid touching your face. You should also avoid sharing utensils, towels, and cups with that person. It is best to avoid these practices at all times, because a person with the cold sores virus may be contagious even if he or she is not currently be experiencing an obvious outbreak.

If you are in a relationship with a person who is prone to fever blisters, avoid kissing him or her during an outbreak. Wait until the sores have completely healed before getting romantic. Otherwise, you risk the possibility of catching the virus and simply passing it back and forth between each other.

Ask: Dr. Nerdy!

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