How Can Cold Sores Recur?

Understanding How Cold Sores Work

The condition known as cold sores (more commonly referred to as fever blisters) is caused by the condition herpes simplex type I (HSV-1). Cold sores are a common condition, resulting in tiny, painful fluid filled blisters found in the mouth and nose area. The condition can not be cured or prevented once contracted, and once infected, the symptoms can reoccur if the conditions are right.

What Triggers Recurring Cold Sores

Once a person has become infected, herpes simplex type I can remain in the body. While cold sore symptoms may not appear during the first episode of the disease, certain triggers can cause cold sores to manifest and return repeatedly. These triggers are:

  • Constant sunlight exposure during summer and winter months (most notably on the lips)
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Colds and flu
  • Food allergies
  • Dental treatment
  • Lip or gum injury
  • A weak immune system due to other medications or an autoimmune disease
  • Cosmetic surgery (such as dermabrasion or laser skin resurfacing)
  • Hormonal changes (for women during the menstrual cycle)
  • Pregnancy

These recurrent cold sore outbreaks can happen throughout a person's lifetime, and can trigger up to one to twelve outbreaks a year. Fortunately, the older a person gets, the fewer outbreaks may occur.

Preparing for a Recurrent Cold Sore Outbreak

During the prodromal stage, when cold sores reoccur, symptoms will begin to develop where the facial skin and the lips meet. On an average of six to forty eight hours before a cold sore appears, a person may begin to feel tingling, burning, itching, numbness, pain or tenderness in the affected area. Individuals who have a weakened immune system are more susceptible to the effects of cold sore outbreaks for longer periods of time than those who have stronger immune systems.

Prevention for Cold Sores

There are several preparations that can be made to diminish the effects of cold sores, or to avoid contamination altogether. The best prevention to spread cold sores is to avoid coming into contact with other people during an outbreak. Washing hands frequently and avoiding physical contact with the eyes or genital area can stop the spread of the infection to other areas.

It is also important to not share items with anyone else, and to frequently clean items with a disinfectant. A person should make sure to avoid any of the above mentioned triggers to prevent another outbreak. Keeping the body healthy, well maintained, stress free, and out of prolonged sunlight are also beneficial factors to keep herpes simplex type I under control. If a doctor is seen during an early stage of the disease, there may be medications that can be prescribed that can shorten outbreak lengths.

Treat Symptoms as They Occur

Without treatment, cold sores can clear up on their own within seven to ten days. If symptoms persist, there are also other alternative such as home remedies you can try.


Photo Credit: carbutt

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