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Prevent Cold Sores

Topic Overview

Cold sores can be painful and cause embarrassment.

Try the following to reduce your chance of getting cold sores:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure of your lips to sunlight. Use a lip moisturizer with a sunscreen protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher before going out in the sun, and wear a hat if exposure to the sun seems to trigger cold sores. A hat will not protect the lips if light is reflected off of snow or water.
  • Avoid direct physical contact with people who have a cold sore. Remember, cold sores are caused by a contagious virus (herpes type 1). Children often become infected by contact with parents, siblings, or other close relatives who have cold sores.
  • Avoid kissing or shaking hands with anyone who has a cold sore and avoid direct skin contact with genital herpes sores. Do not engage in high-risk sexual behavior.
  • Reduce stress by practicing relaxation exercises often.
  • Avoid foods that seem to cause cold sores to recur. Cut down or cut out foods rich in arginine, such as chocolate, cola, beer, grain cereals, chicken soup, gelatin, seeds, nuts, and peas. The virus that causes cold sores thrives on the essential amino acid arginine.

If you have frequent painful cold sores, talk with you dentist or health professional about therapy to treat and prevent cold sores.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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