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Herpes Virus Linked To Poor Reading Ability In Teens

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Cold sores were once thought of as benign afflictions that are painful, but annoying only. However, new researcher has indicated that the HSV-1 virus may be much more dangerous than previously thought. HSV-1 infections have been linked to reduced reading ability, cognitive impairment, and memory problems in teens. Read more below.

Cold sores seem like a harmless virus with few side effects other than cosmetic ones, but new studies have shown that this is not the case.

Recent studies have shown that not only can the HSV-1 virus (the virus that causes cold sores) lead to cognitive decline, but it can also lead to serious memory problems, dementia, visual-motor speed, attention, Alzheimer’s disease, and now- even reading ability.

A new study from the University of Michigan has discovered that not only can cold sores be detrimental for cognitive ability, but that it can have a particularly harmful effect on teens. These findings are particularly worrisome since about 1/3 of all teens have the herpes virus by the age of 12.

HSV-1 and Reading Ability

The researchers found shocking results in the 2013 study. According to researchers, “This really is the first study that shows that there may be an effect (of the herpes virus) among healthy individuals and that it may be detrimental for cognition.”

When asked about the study findings, Amanda Simanek, an assistant professor of epidemiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had this to say, “If HSV-1 begins to have an impact on cognitive function early in life, HSV-1 infection in childhood may have important consequences for educational attainment and social mobility across the lifespan. Once acquired, herpes viruses are never cleared from the body and instead persist in a latent state.”

The University of Michigan study looked at the link between HSV-1 virus and cognitive impairment. The study specifically looked at thinking, judgment, language, and memory. Surprisingly enough, the researchers found that no matter a person’s age, the herpes virus has the ability to reduce cognitive function. This was true for children aged 6 years all the way up to older adults.

The most worrisome findings were found in children between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. The study uncovered that teens with the HSV-1 virus had lower spatial reasoning and reading skills. The researchers were unable to identify why the virus causes memory problems.

One theory that the researchers have identified links the virus to the nervous system. The researchers believe that the virus can invade the central nervous system and directly damage the brain. Each outbreak of herpes triggers the release of pro-inflammatory hormones cytokines. These hormones are known for their detrimental effect on cognitive development and performance.

Normally, the hormones trigger inflammation to speed healing to an area. However, when there are too many cytokines in the body, this can lead to chronic inflammation which can lead to a variety of other disorders and medical conditions in addition to memory decline.

What You Can Do About It

According to the University of Michigan, about 1/3 of all children have the herpes virus by the age of 12. In fact, many children contract the herpes virus as babies, when they are kissed by adults with the virus. You can know if your child has HSV-1 by whether or not she gets cold sores. If she suffers from cold sores on the inside or outside of the lips, then she most likely has HSV-1.

Even if your child has herpes, there are still a few things you can do to protect the health of her brain and cognitive function. The following three methods will help your teen have fewer side effects from the virus. As a bonus, if your child does not already have the herpes virus, the following methods will help prevent an infection from starting.

Reduce Stress

Stress is one of the number one triggers for the herpes virus according to the University of Michigan. Stress lowers the immune system, which triggers herpes outbreaks. According to the above study, the researchers at the University of Michigan believe that it is the active form of the virus that impairs mental function and reading ability. Avoiding outbreaks can help prevent cognitive impairment in teens. Use the following methods to reduce stress in your teen’s life:


Teens are growing rapidly and experiencing a variety of hormonal changes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need a minimum of 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night to function at their best. The sleep period is extremely important for teens, as it is a time when the body dumps stress and boosts the immune system. Many of today’s teens get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night. You can help prevent herpes outbreaks in your teen by giving him enough time to rest and encouraging healthy sleep patterns.

Lessen Workload

Many of today’s teens have huge amounts of stress. School, homework, jobs, activities, and sports all take a toll on a teen’s health. If a teen has no downtime, then he or she will have an increased chance of suffering from chronic stress. Chronic stress will reduce a teen’s immune system, leading to an increased risk for herpes outbreaks.

Promote a Calm Atmosphere

Stress can come from many sources, but if the home environment is not stress-free, this can lead to an increase in stress for you and your teen. You can help promote a calm atmosphere at home by avoiding stress-inducing activities. Keeping organized, having a specific time for events, and following a daily routine are all simple ways to promote a calm atmosphere at home. Your home does not have to be calm every minute of every day, but if you allow your teen time to decompress, then he or she will be able to relieve some of the stress from the day.


Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin. Both of these chemicals help relieve stress and boost the immune system. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to eliminate excess stress from the body. Encourage your teen to engage in daily exercise to help fight stress. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. Just a daily walk around the block can help boost a teen’s mood and immune system.

Boost the Immune System

The immune system is naturally responsible for fighting the herpes virus. The trouble with HSV-1 is that once you get it, it is in your body for life. Under normal circumstances, the virus lies dormant. However, when the immune system is compromised, then the virus erupts. By boosting your teen’s immune system, you can help avoid herpes outbreaks that could lead to cognitive decline and hampered reading ability. The following materials are highly effective at boosting the immune system and fighting against HSV-1:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an immune-system booster. Vitamin A is necessary for stimulating the immune system. A deficiency in vitamin A leads to an immune system that is weak and ineffective. Vitamin A is also specifically beneficial against the herpes virus. In a 1997 study from the New York State Institute for Basic Research, researchers found that vitamin A was able to inhibit HSV-1 replication.


Selenium is an important ingredient for immune system health as well as specifically for the HSV-1 virus. Selenium was found to be effective in in vitro studies as an antiviral agent against herpes.


Garlic is an immune-stimulating ingredient that is available in supplement form or as a raw substance from the grocery store. Garlic can boost the immune system with its ingredients vitamins B1, B6 C, iron, phosphorus, and alliin. Garlic is well known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties.


Zinc is one of the most important minerals for immune system health. According to the University of Maryland, zinc helps T cells and the other immune cells function properly. Deficiencies in zinc lead to an underactive immune system.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and prevent autoimmune diseases from forming. Researchers have just begun to understand the full potential of vitamin D when it comes to the immune system. A 2011 study from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research found that vitamin D is extremely beneficial in supporting the immune system.

Vitamin C

For years, it was thought that vitamin C was the only necessary vitamin for the immune system. Recent studies have proved that it is not true, but vitamin C is still an important vitamin for immunity. A 2006 study conducted by Bayer Consumer Care found that a supplement mixture of vitamin C and zinc was able to boost the immune system and shorten the duration of minor respiratory ailments.

Prevent Viral Spread

You can protect the health of your teen and control the spread of the HSV-1 virus by preventing the spread of the virus. This step is particularly important if you have the herpes virus but your teen does not. Controlling the spread of the virus is the only way to prevent it from infecting others. The HSV-1 virus is extremely contagious, and nearly all children exposed end up with the virus. The following ingredients are helpful in stopping the spread of the virus. This will not only help prevent the virus from spreading from person to person, but it will also help prevent the virus from affecting the nervous system.

Even if your teen already has the HSV-1 virus, these treatment methods will be effective at shortening the duration of outbreaks and preventing damaging side effects like cognitive impairment.

Basic Hygiene

Basic hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. Do not share glasses or food with a person with an active herpes outbreak. Do not touch the sores and do not allow the sores to touch another person’s body in any way. Discourage your teen from touching others if he or she has an active outbreak. Wash hands frequently, particularly after applying topical treatments to the cold sore.

Hygiene Measures
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Do not touch outbreaks
  • Avoid contact with others during outbreaks
  • Do not share food and beverages



L-lysine is a classic remedy for HSV-1. Lysine can also have a preventative effect against the herpes virus. In a 2005 clinical trial from Southern California University of Health Sciences of an ointment containing lysine, zinc, and a few other ingredients; 87 percent of patients using the ointment showed a full resolution of symptoms by the 6th day.

Vitamin E

Topical vitamin E is known for its ability to heal cold sores and other facial blemishes. A study from 1975 conducted by several dentists showed that applying vitamin E to HSV-1 outbreaks was able to heal the lesions within a few days.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is used in Germany and other parts of Europe as an anti-viral. Several of the components in lemon balm are used to inhibit the replication of both the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses. A study from 1999 conducted by Cooperative Clinical Drug Research and Development Center in Germany found that topical treatments containing lemon balm were not only effective at reducing the spread of the virus, but also for reducing the frequency of future outbreaks.


This extract from beehives contains many antiviral ingredients that can help stop the spread of herpes and heal existing outbreaks. In a 2002 study from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, it was shown that propolis extract was effective against HSV-1 in both in vitro and in vivo studies.

Boost Cognitive Function By Preventing Herpes Outbreaks

If you want to ensure your teens and children develop in the best way possible and avoid the unpleasant and shocking side effects of cold sores, then prevention against herpes is an absolute necessity. However, if you or your children already have the herpes virus there is no need to despair.

According to research, the biggest cognitive effects occur when the virus enters the nervous system. A healthy immune system will prevent the spread of the virus this far. You can prevent contracting the virus, future outbreaks, and boost the immune system by following the steps outlined above. A multi-step approach to fighting herpes is the best way to prevent reading problems and cognitive decline associated with HSV-1 during the teen years.





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