Cold Sores - What Are They and How to I Prevent Them?

by JoBeth Levina

Posted on Thursday 2nd of April 2009

Cold sores are small fluid filled blisters that form around the mouth, which are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus I. Also known as Fever Blisters or Oral Herpes, the virus is present in the majority of the adult population, although many people never suffer a cold sore outbreak. While it is usually not a serious illness, the appearance of the blisters and the scabs that follow them can be extremely sore, but perhaps worse, particularly among the young, is the blow to self esteem that comes from the cold sores, which typically last from seven to ten days without treatment.

The HSV virus is transmitted through contact with someone who is infected, usually, but not always, when they are exhibiting the symptoms of a cold sore. Once the virus enters the body it enters the nervous system, where for the majority of the time it will remain in an inactive state. Like all herpes viruses, once infected it remains with us for life and although many sufferers show no symptoms, there is no actual cure for cold sores.

While the typical symptoms of a cold sore outbreak include a tingling or itching sensation in the infected area, followed by small fluid filled blisters that merge together and burst; and finally a scab that then heals, an additional symptom of a first cold sore outbreak may also be a sore throat.

As the infection is localised sufferers should take care not to spread the viral infection to other areas of the body and should always ensure they wash their hands thoroughly, particularly if they have been in contact with the sores or blisters.

So, given that the virus is incurable, the outlook for cold sore sufferers looks initially bleak. However, there are a number of steps you can take to help prevent frequent cold sore outbreaks and to heal them fast when they do occur.

The first thing to remember is that in the dormant state the virus shows no symptoms and it is help in this state by the body's own defence mechanism, the immune system. While the immune system is functioning well it can hold the virus at bay, it is only when the immune system becomes compromised due to fighting another infection or weakened due to other factors that the cold sore virus can reappear.

Therefore, by ensuring the immune system is kept in peak condition you stand the best chance of suffering fewer cold sore outbreaks. And in order to kept you immune system strong that means looking at your lifestyle and specifically exercise, diet and stress.

If you take little exercise then you already know that you should be taking more, but if you do decide to get fitter you should take it easy at first. Some gentle walking for 20 or 30 minutes a couple times a week is a good start, but if you can increase that to 4 or 5 times a week you're well on the way to improving your general fitness and boosting your immune system. With your diet you need to avoid saturated fats, processed foods, sugar and salt and take plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. And finally you should take whatever steps you can to reduce stress in your life in order for your immune system to be effective.

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