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I HAVE A COLD SORE, DOES THIS MEAN THAT I HAVE HERPES?
Well, technically, yes. A cold sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus 1. However, there is a distinction between the virus that causes cold sores and the virus that causes genital herpes, which is herpes simplex 2. Because of the connotations that the name “herpes” implies, it’s no wonder that men and women are ashamed and embarrassed when they have a cold sore.
IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO MAKE THE OUTBREAKS STOP COMPLETELY?
Unfortunately, no. Herpes is a virus that remains in the body for life. Once the cold sore is healed, the virus retreats back into the nerve cells. Once there, it stays dormant but can “reactivate” at any time and cause a new cold sore to appear.
Though the virus that causes cold sores is permanent, there are some things that you can do to decrease your chances of future outbreaks. While we examine those, let’s also take a look at the “triggers” that are proven to bring on cold sores.
· Sunlight-Many people are very prone to cold sores when they suffer from sunburn or spend too much time outdoors. This is easily remedied. A good sunscreen applied to the lips is your first line of defense against sun-induced cold sores, commonly referred to as fever blisters.
· Cold and Wind-Here again, sunscreen comes in handy. Use it liberally and often whenever you’re outdoors.
· Pregnancy and menstruation-These can trigger a hormonally induced outbreak of cold sores. Follow the above advice to minimize these occurrences. ***In the case of pregnancy, follow your doctor’s advice concerning vitamin or supplements.
· Colds or flu-Anything that lowers the body’s resistance can trigger a cold sore. It all comes down to making your body as strong and healthy as it can be.
· Stress-When your body is under stress, your immune system weakens. This in turn allows you to become susceptible to any nasty virus that is lurking around, including herpes. While you can’t avoid stress altogether, there are some things that you can do to limit its effects on the body.
1. Get the proper amount of rest. A person that receives an adequate amount of sleep is more likely to be stronger and healthier than the person who tries to get by on a minimal amount of sleep.
2. Proper nutrition and adequate protein intake. This is very important in the process of healing.
3. Take supplements. Antioxidants are especially good at keeping the body healthy and warding off cold sores. Many people who suffer frequent outbreaks are found to be deficient in the B vitamins. Also, the amino acid, Lysine, is rapidly gaining popularity for warding off cold sores. Check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
4. Take “relaxation time-outs.” Make time for yourself every day to relax and unwind.
IF HERPES IS A VIRUS, WHY HASN’T MY HUSBAND PICKED IT UP FROM ME?
For reasons unknown, some people seem to have a natural immunity to the herpes virus and will never contract it. Others harbor the herpes virus, yet show no outward symptoms. Though they themselves may never get a cold sore, they can still pass on the virus to an unsuspecting individual.
HOW COMMON ARE COLD SORES?
Eighty percent of the population is infected with the herpes virus that causes cold sores, yet only about sixty percent of these people ever experience a cold sore.
I’VE TRIED ALL OF THE PREVENTATIVE PROCEDURES, BUT WHAT CAN I DO IF I STILL COME DOWN WITH A COLD SORE?
The treatments for cold sores have come a long way in recent years. There are several new medications that not only offer relief of symptoms, but they also shorten the cold sore’s life span. Some are available over the counter (Abreva, Viractin) and some by prescription only (Denivir).
The one thing that these medications do have in common is that treatment must be instituted at the very first sign of a cold sore. Often, this is the tingling or tickling sensation that happens before a cold sore is even visible. If you suffer frequent outbreaks, it’s a good idea to keep one of these medicines on hand.
If you suffer from cold sores, you are in the majority. Because herpes is spread so easily, it is important that you take measures to avoid passing the virus on. If you have a cold sore, don’t touch your mouth or share glasses or cups with anyone. Frequent hand washing is a must, and be especially careful not to kiss anyone.
An accidental peck on the lips has been known to spread the virus. Also, it is possible to pass the virus through oral/genital contact to your partner, so play it safe until your cold sore is totally healed.