Healthy Swellness: How to lower your frequency of cold sore outbreaks

December 21, 2015

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That tingling. As soon as you feel it, you’re filled with dread. Because if you’ve ever had one before, you know what’s soon to come. An ugly and sometimes painful cold sore. And with this unsightly sore by your mouth, you just want to hide out until it goes away.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about cold sores, though. Although you might feel conspicuous and ashamed when you have a cold sore flare-up, you should know that this virus is actually very common. According to Ipsos Connections Tracking Research, about one in five Canadians suffer from the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and the World Health Organization just released the findings of their first study on cold sores a few weeks ago, and they estimate that 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have this virus.

One reason the cold sore virus is so common is because this incurable problem is easily transferred from one person to another. All you have to do is come into contact with the virus, so this could happen by using the same utensils or drinking from the same cup as someone who has an active herpes simplex lesion.

I remember getting a cold sore about 20 years ago. I didn’t recognize the tingling sensation on my lip, and it quickly progressed into an unsightly cold sore. I remember walking with my head down for two weeks and desperately wanting to hide at home until it was gone. I haven’t had an outbreak since, but I know everyone has cold sore triggers, and once you know your triggers, you can help reduce the frequency of it flaring up.

For example, a compromised immune system may lead to the virus flaring up. So living life in a way to maintain a healthy immune system will help, such as getting enough sleep and eat a well-balanced diet. Also, reducing your stress levels can help lower your flare-up risk; your choice of stress-busting may be meditation, whereas others prefer to go for a run, kickboxing class or just going for a walk with your dog. Personally, I go running regularly and I generally eat a balanced diet.

Still, even with the best lifestyle habits, there is always a risk you could get a cold sore; remember, once exposed to the virus, you carry it for the rest of your life. And while there is still no cure, know that there are now over-the-counter cold sore treatments like abreva® that contain real medicine that can reduce the length of time you have the cold sore.

If you suffer from cold sores frequently, or even if you’ve only had just one episode in the past (like me) it’s important to be prepared and know how to properly treat them at the first sign of the tingle. In fact, even if you’ve never had a cold sore, you may still have been exposed to the virus, so this is good-to-know info for everyone, especially considering cold and flu season is around the corner, which tends to bring our immune system down.

Stay tuned to the blog for more information on what you can do to help keep cold sores at bay (and word on the street is there’ll be a giveaway in the new year, too!).


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