How Can I Prevent Cold Sores?

Cold sores are also known as the herpes simplex virus 1 and are highly contagious. While there is no cure for the common cold sore, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading herpes.

What Is Herpes Simplex Virus 1?

There are two kinds of the herpes virus: oral and genital. Oral herpes is called herpes simplex virus 1, while the genital strain is called herpes simplex virus 2. There is no cure for herpes, and it is highly contagious.It is also possible to spread oral herpes to the genital area and genital herpes to the mouth through oral sex. The distinction between type 1 and type 2 is simply the strain. Type 2 has more severe symptoms including feeling like you have to flu and burning at the site.

How Do I Know If I Have Oral Herpes?

If you have ever had a cold sore, you have oral herpes. This is a virus you will carry your whole life and there is no cure. You may have frequent outbreaks, or very few. There are medications that may shorten the healing time, and there are certain steps you can take to prevent an outbreak. Cold sores are also called fever blisters and are highly contagious and very common. Symptoms of a cold sore include:

  • Small, painful or itchy bumps
  • Fluid filled blisters
  • Pain or tingling that precedes the blister

Symptoms usually last between 7 and 10 days. The virus is contagious at the first sign of tingling, and often even before that. You will need to be very careful if you are sexually active. Cold sores most often appear on the lips, nostrils, chin or fingers but can occasionally appear on the gums and the roof of the mouth. If you have a sore on the fleshy part of your cheek, it's most likely a canker sore.

How Can I Prevent Spreading Cold Sores?

Cold sores are highly contagious. At the first sign of a sore, usually tingling or pain, be sure to take immediate cautionary measures:

  • Don't share utensils, towels, razors or toothbrushes.
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your face or the sore; if you do, wash hands thoroughly
  • Refrain from kissing anyone
  • Avoid sexual intercourse and oral sex

How Can I Prevent A Cold Sore Outbreak?

Some people find certain triggers that make them more susceptible to a herpes outbreak. Here are some tips to prevent future outbreaks:

  • Reduce stress: many people find stress is a common trigger.
  • Limit sun exposure and use sun block: some strains of oral herpes have a UV trigger.
  • Stay healthy: a healthy immune system may reduce risk of outbreak.
  • Use condoms: this is the easiest way to prevent STD's of all kinds, including herpes.
  • Know your symptoms: be aware of even the slightest sign of an outbreak, and take immediate steps.
  • Supplements: garlic, echinacea and even red wine have been shown to have some effect at minimizing outbreaks.
  • Skip the spermicide: spermicide has been shown to cause tiny abrasions in the vaginal wall which increases the potential of contraction. Be sure to use another method of birth control in addition to a condom.
  • Be honest: by being open and communicative with your partner you can communicate at the first sign of an outbreak. If you have herpes, it is your responsibility to tell your partner.
  • Valtrex: Valtrex is an anti-viral that can reduce the risk of transmitting herpes. Valtrex is a prescription medication; talk to your doctor if you have herpes.

Herpes simplex virus 1 doesn't have to control your life; however if you have herpes you have an increased responsibility to take care of your self and any sexual partners to prevent further contagion.


Photo Credit: xxxrmt

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