How to avoid cold sores

Improve your general health to avoid cold sores

It's a sad fact that some of us are more susceptible to the hell of cold sores than others. Around one in five people in the UK have recurring cold sores, although as many as 80% of us carry the herpes simplex virus that causes them. For many, the virus remians dormant and never develops into a full cold sore.

If you are a sufferer, you will know the discomfort all too well. So how can you minimise the likelihood of an outbreak?

Dr Suranjith Seneviratne, Consultant in Clinical Immunology and Allergy at London's Royal Free Hospital, explains, 'A healthy immune system helps to keep the herpes virus under control: the immune system is the body's defence, protecting it against germs and infection.

'If it is weakened, the herpes virus may be activated, resulting in  symptoms such as cold sores.  You need to look after your immune system by following a healthy way of life in the form of adequate amounts of rest, nutritious meals and lifestyle changes.'

He suggests the following:

1. STAY ACTIVE: 'Physical activity helps to send antibodies and white cells (the main components of your defence system) through the body at a faster rate. This is turn may help with the detection and elimination of viruses and bacteria.' Choose a gentle workout to keep things moving

2. DE-STRESS: 'Chronic stress impacts your body's ability to fight infections, affecting the body's cells and reducing the effectiveness of your immune system. Enjoy spending time going for a walk, catching up with a friend or reading a good book.' More de-stress ideas here

3. EAT HEALTHILY: 'Poor nutrition can increase your chances of an infection. Mineral-rich foods that are high in vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, antioxidants and carotenes can boost your immune system,' Dr Seneviratne advises. Top 9 immunity-boosting foods

4. SLEEP WELL: 'Make sure you get plenty of sleep, as it helps re-build and repair the immune system. The body's defence cells are at risk of 'going down' if we are sleep deprived.' Expert sleep advice

5. AVOID EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL INTAKE: 'Drinking too much, and smoking, can cause added harm to the body and weaken the immune system.' Think about how much you drink

Once the cold sore virus is in your body, it multiplies and divides on the mouth and lips. It finds its way to the nerve endings where it will lie dormant until triggered - this is when small blisters appear and then break to form the unsightly, painful scab that is a cold sore.

Dr Seneviratne explains, 'Once you're infected, your body keeps the herpes virus under control by having an optimally functioning immune system. Disruption in the workings of your immune system can lead to the activation of the herpes, resulting in symptoms such as cold sores.'

Once you have a cold sore, try using an antiseptic, antibacterial cold sore cream eg Cymex Cream to relieve the symptoms and promote healing.

Find out more about cold sores at our sister site