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7 Tips for Avoiding Cold Sore Outbreaks

Updated on May 21, 2011

The Ounce of Prevention

Take it from a long-time sufferer: the best cold sore is no cold sore and the best "cure" is prevention! If you get cold sores, also known as fever blisters, here are seven all-natural maintenance tips for heading off an outbreak. Once you are infected, the cold sore virus, more properly known as herpes simplex 1 (HSV1), continues to live within your nerve system. It is usually dormant, generally only causing outbreaks every once in a while (or several times a year for the most unlucky of us). Some fortunate people never experience symptoms (outbreaks) at all. Try following the tips below and you could join the ranks of those fortunate few!

With an estimated 60-90% of the world's population already infected with the highly contagious herpes simplex I virus, the best form of prevention is no longer possible for most of us. If know you're one of us in the "infected" category, consider being part of the solution for the next generation. Most of us were likely infected with the cold sore virus by age 3. (We kiss and cuddle small children and likewise, they touch everything within arms reach!) So when you feel a cold sore coming on, take these precautions until your sore has completely healed:

  • Avoid kissing -- the virus is easily transmitted through saliva, mucous and skin contact!
  • Immediately wash your hands if you touch anywhere in or around your mouth, including after brushing your teeth and applying treatment to your cold sore. Take special care to wash your hands after touching your cold sore and before touching your eyes or genitals.
  • Don't share eating utensils, cups or toothbrushes with anyone else.

Keep that Virus Off Your Lip!

Aside from never becoming infected in the first place, the best cold sore defense is to take care of yourself, avoid extended periods of "bad" stress, and maintain a robust immune system. Problem is, while daily spa treatments, massages and gourmet diets sound delightful, we all know that life often has other plans for us. None of the tips below have to involve a lot of time or money.

1. Always protect your lips from the sun and wind. Use lip balm with at least SPF 15 when you are in sun or snow (the cold, wind and the sun's reflection off the snow is very hard on your lips). A good friend told me about a dream trip to Mexico with his then-fiancée. Not only did he get badly sunburned, but he broke out with cold sores all around his mouth and nostrils! (Yes, the couple did break up.) Sunburn is a leading trigger for cold sore outbreaks, so don't forget to protect your lips!

2. Make sure you're getting your vitamins. Vitamins B, C and E are especially important for boosting your immune system. When looking for supplements, choose a B complex emphasizing B12 and folic acid. A Vitamin C supplement with citrus bioflavonoids can be very effective in reducing cold sore outbreaks.

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3. Cold sores may be related to a calcium deficiency, so make sure you're getting enough calcium.

4. Try using herbs to boost your immune system. Echinacea and goldenseal are especially helpful. Seek medical advice before trying these herbs of you are pregnant or lactating, or your immune system is already compromised by disease.

5. In general, maintain a healthy diet, but try to increase foods high in Lysine and decrease foods high in Arginine. Lysine and Arginine are amino acids. Arginine supports the herpes virus while Lysine discourages its growth. Foods high in Arginine include nuts, caffeine, chocolate, raisins, peas, grains and oatmeal. For a high Lysine diet, choose meat, dairy, soybeans, potatoes or natural yogurt (more on yogurt below). Several hundred mg of L-Lysine is generally a sufficient maintenance dosage to prevent or deter future cold sore outbreaks. Consult a doctor before supplementing if you are pregnant or nursing.

6. Eat plain yogurt with live cultures every day to stimulate your immune system and guard against cold sore outbreaks. Be sure to choose yogurt that hasn't been heat-treated and doesn't contain gelatin, which may trigger cold sores!

7. Finally, do your best to prevent long-term stress from building up within you. Stress occupies a prominent position in almost any discussion of cold sore triggers. Pent-up stress wreaks havoc on your immune system and contributes to diseases far worse than HSV1. So build a regular de-stressing activity into your schedule. Exercise is one of the best stress-relief activities. Even moderate exercise can reduce stress levels, clear your mind, tone your body, boost your immune system AND improve your resistance to cold sore outbreaks!

Much of cold sore maintenance and prevention is just plain healthy living! Do yourself and your loved ones a favor: develop more positive and healthy habits! You'll probably prevent much more than your next cold sore.


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    • einron profile image

      einron 9 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      Very good advice. Had suffered in the past. Hope you had more fans.

    • profile image

      Cassidy Ferrar 9 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Thanks for your kind message, Einron.

    • ng0208 profile image

      ng0208 7 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for sharing! I had no idea things like caffeine and chocolate could fuel a cold sore!

    • profile image

      JB Harrison 7 years ago

      Great info, thanks for the tips!

    • profile image

      Jacquie 5 years ago

      Thanks for all the info- it is both enlightening and depressing! So many things I love are on the "bad" foods list :(

    • Leighsue profile image

      Leighsue 5 years ago

      Wow, coffee and chocolate, my favorites.

    • profile image

      CoffeLover 5 years ago

      I don't know how I will live without my COFFEE. :(

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