6 Cold Sore Triggers You Didn't Realize You Were Having

Feb 20, 2018 at 1:54 p.m. ET
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Nightmare scenario time: You're getting ready for a big event or a date. You have an excellent new outfit. You're having the best hair day of your life. Your makeup? So good you should have your own YouTube channel. There's only one issue. That little tingle you were feeling in your lip the other day? It's a full-on cold sore now, and no amount of concealer is going to cover that up.

It's possible for just about anyone to get a cold sore — according to the Mayo Clinic, 90 percent of adults worldwide test positive for the strain of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1, that causes cold sores.

While the vast majority of people who carry HSV-1 are asymptomatic and rarely if ever experience outbreaks, for others, cold sores can be an embarrassing nuisance that flares up unexpectedly. For those who suffer from cold sores, it's worth knowing there are some things that can trigger outbreaks. While some of them are unavoidable, others can be managed.

More: Almost Everyone Has Oral Herpes, Including Me

1. Viral infection

A viral infection is one outbreak trigger that can be hard to avoid. However, some things, like washing hands regularly and avoiding people who are sick, can cut down on your chances of catching a bug that could trigger an outbreak.

2. Fever

A fever is another trigger that isn't easy to control. However, like with infections, practicing good hygiene can lower your chances of getting sick, and thus lower your chances of getting a fever that triggers a cold sore outbreak.

More: 8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Herpes

3. Stress

Stress is one trigger that can be managed. Being stressed out also wreaks havoc on our bodies in other ways, so trying to keep stress under control has benefits other than lowering your chances of getting cold sores. Try calming activities like meditation or spending time with friends.

4. Hormonal changes

Some of the hormonal changes that are likely to cause cold sore outbreaks are related to menstruation, and so they aren't easy to control. However, some kinds of birth control eliminate periods and may also help with the hormonal changes that cause some women to get cold sores when they get their periods.

More: 7 Cold Sore Myths We Need to Stop Believing Right Now

5. Fatigue

Getting enough sleep is important to so many aspects of our health. If you're experiencing cold sore breakouts, getting your full eight hours may help.

6. Exposure to wind or sunlight

Yes, exposure to the elements can trigger a cold sore outbreak. Wearing a scarf or hood on windy days or wearing a hat and seeking shade on sunny days can help.

A version of this article was originally published in January 2017.

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