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Have a Cold Sore? Blame the Weather

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Cold sores are painful and sometimes embarrassing. Find out why you're more likely to get these pesky outbreaks during the winter months and simple things you can do to prevent the sores from making an appearance this winter below.

Feel like you have extra cold sores now that winter has set in? It’s not your imagination. Studies show that winter conditions are more likely to trigger cold sores. Since about 80 percent of all adults carry the cold sore virus, chances are high than you will see at least one cold sore this winter.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for getting winter cold sores and heal them quickly when they do arrive.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores aren’t simply tiny pimples around the mouth. In fact, cold sores are a type of herpes. Cold sores can occur both inside and outside the mouth. In the winter, you are more likely to see cold sores on the outside edges of your lips than inside your mouth, because winter temperatures are a known trigger for the virus. Cold sores are part of the HS-1 virus family, which is simply a mild form of herpes related to the more dangerous HS-2, which can cause similar outbreaks in the genital region.

A winter cold sore usually starts as a small bump on the edge of the lip that feels like a pimple and may sting a little. After a few days, a blister forms, then bursts; leaving a small sore area that quickly heals. Most people do not have more than a couple of cold sores at a time even during the winter.

Why Is Winter A Trigger?

There are three main reasons why cold sores are more likely to pop up in the winter. The first reason is due to the harshness of winter winds. A lot of wind dries out the lips, which make them more hospitable to the virus.

Secondly, the air in winter from heaters is generally drier and warmer than what typically hits the face during the other seasons. Dry, hot air can encourage the virus to spread and have active outbreaks. However, the most likely trigger is the reduction in immunity that many people have during the winter. A lack of vitamin D and a reduced intake of vegetables and fruit can contribute to a lowered immune system in the winter.

Additionally, crowded areas spread viruses and illnesses more easily, which means that your immune system is constantly under attack. These three factors contribute to a higher risk for succumbing to the herpes virus, which is always present in your body, but usually dormant. Stress on your immune system makes it more likely that you will see herpes cold sore outbreaks.

Other Triggers for Cold Sores

Temperature is not the only trigger for cold sores. In fact, there are a variety of factors that could cause a cold sore outbreak in addition to the winter weather. The following 6 factors can trigger an HSV-1 outbreak:

Non-Active Virus Shedding

It is possible to spread the virus even if there is no visible outbreak. This is called virus “shedding,” and it is one of the main ways that the virus spreads. While many people realize to avoid the virus when someone has an outbreak, it is impossible to know who is able to pass on the virus without a visible outbreak. In fact, this is one of the reasons why 80 percent of adults have the HSV-1 virus. According to Web MD, most children get the virus from virus shedding by relatives.


Scientists do not know why PMS is a trigger for the cold sore virus, but many teen girls and adult women have a cold sore flare-up right before their period. While many women may mistake these outbreaks for pimples, they are in fact HSV-1 outbreaks and should not be treated as a pimple or else the virus may take longer to heal.


Stress is a trigger for HSV-1 outbreaks because it also lowers the immune system. Stress is one of the main triggers for cold sore outbreaks. When you were younger, you probably had outbreaks before a big test or before a job interview. The longer you are stressed, the more likely you are to have HSV-1 outbreaks.


Other illnesses can also trigger cold sores for the same reason as stress. When your body is fighting off something else, it is more vulnerable to attacks from other invading bacteria and viruses. You can imagine it like someone sneaking into a military base when the soldiers are off fighting somewhere else.

Medical Procedures

Medical procedures place enormous stress on the body, which is why they can trigger herpes outbreaks as well. It is important to boost the immune system after any medical procedure to prevent further infection. Additionally, most medical procedures require the use of antibiotics or other medications, which can interfere with the balance of your body. Boosting your immune system will help prevent further infection and herpes outbreaks. Some medications also reduce the immune system to help control inflammation (typically steroids), which will also result in a greater likelihood of seeing cold sore outbreaks.


Inflammation in the body causes chronic stress that has similar results as mental stress. Chronic inflammation causes overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. A suppressed immune system, as outlined above, contributes to additional herpes outbreaks.

Healing Winter Cold Sores

Healing winter cold sores or HSV-1 outbreaks is rather simple. Since the virus is so mild, there are little or no side effects that can cause any serious medical conditions. However, the condition is painful, and the sores may cause some cosmetic disruption, which causes many people to want to heal the cold sores as quickly as possible. Luckily, there are many ways to heal a cold sore with little trouble.


There are a few prescription and non-prescription medications that help heal cold sores. These remedies can be expensive, but if you want to heal a cold sore fast, they could be one of your best options.

HSV-1 Medications 

Prescription: Famciclovir, valacyclovir, and acyclovir

Non-Prescription: Acyclovir, penciclovir, docosanol, or an acyclovir/hydrocortisone mix


One of the most-studied remedies for cold sores is l-lysine. This amino acid can help prevent cold sore outbreaks and help it heal faster once they start. Avoiding nuts and chocolate will also help heal cold sores faster; as these compounds contain amino acids that make cold sores worse. A study published in the “Journal of Burn Care and Research” found that supplementing with 500- mg to 1 gram of l-lysine daily could help prevent fever blisters in burn patients.

Vitamin C

There are some studies that suggest that vitamin C can help heal cold sores faster. In 2009, researchers in Mexico examined the benefits of taking vitamin C supplements when suffering from herpes outbreaks in both children and adults. The researchers found that participants who started taking vitamin C within the first 48 hours of feeling a cold sore coming on were able to prevent the blister from forming. Taking vitamin C, later on, reduced the duration and severity of the outbreak. The recommended dose of vitamin C is 500 mg until symptoms disappear.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E can help heal current outbreaks and prevent future outbreaks. Applying vitamin E directly to an outbreak can help it heal faster. Additionally, a study conducted by the University of North Carolina in 2008 found that vitamin E is able to halt the spread of the HSV-1 virus. The recommended dose for internal vitamin E is 50 IU daily.

Olive Leaf

Olive leaf contains strong antiviral properties, making it the perfect companion for shortening the duration of herpes cold sore outbreaks. In vitro studies show that olive leaf extract is highly beneficial in fighting the herpes virus. The recommended dosage is around 75 mg per day.


Just like olive leaf, garlic has both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In 2002, researchers from Brigham Young University found that raw garlic was effective in fighting the herpes virus in vitro studies. There is other evidence that garlic can also help boost natural immunity and fight viruses like the HSV-1 virus in the body as well. 100 mg daily can help heal outbreaks faster. You can also try applying raw garlic directly to an outbreak, but that may sting.

Cult Remedies

Some people swear by cult remedies for cold sores, but there is little scientific backing for these ideas. However, if you are willing to try them, they can’t hurt. Two of the most popular cult remedies for cold sores is eating kiwi fruit and drinking buttermilk. Some cold-sore sufferers report that eating a kiwi fruit once a week or drinking buttermilk daily makes cold sores disappear.

Avoiding Winter Cold Sore Outbreaks

After you heal any existing cold sores, prevention is the key to avoiding them in the future. The following methods are effective at preventing new herpes outbreaks:

Avoid Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid that can trigger the spread of the cold sore virus. Foods high in arginine include chocolate, nuts, grains, and oats.

Avoid Contact with Others

If you know someone else has a cold sore, avoid contact with them when possible. Don’t share dishes or food and avoid touching that person’s face, when possible.

Supplement to Fight Herpes

In addition to the above remedies and supplements, the following supplements can help you fight herpes and prevent future outbreaks.

Lemon Balm and Propolis: A study published in the journal “Phytomedicine” in 2010 found that both lemon balm and the bee product propolis were able to prevent future cold sore outbreaks. 50 mg of propolis and 100 mg of lemon balm will fight off existing outbreaks and prevent future outbreaks.

Selenium: Selenium is a trace element that may be able to reduce your risk for developing winter cold sores. 50 mcg daily will fight the virus and prevent future outbreaks. Zinc Zinc is another immune-supporting mineral that is vital for the prevention of cold sores. Try taking 10 mg daily to fight off future infection.

Monolaurin: Monolaurin is a fatty acid derived from lauric acid. Monolaurin can provide viral protection by killing the virus. In vitro studies, monolaurin was able to destroy DNA and RNA viruses like the herpes virus and flu virus. The recommended dose is 300 mg daily.

Avoid Winter Weather

Another step you can take to prevent future herpes outbreaks is to avoid winter weather. Wrap a scarf around your mouth when you step outside and apply lip balm to keep lips moisturized. Avoid going out into the harsh wind and dry air, when possible.

Stay Relaxed

Stress contributes to herpes outbreaks, so naturally, relaxing can help prevent them from forming. Try to have a relaxed, stress-free environment and mentality to allow your body a chance to recover from the stress of the day. Try drinking a cup of hot tea, taking a warm bath, or simply meditating for a few minutes each day to relax your mind and wipe stress away.

Stop Winter Cold Sores

Just because it is winter does not mean you have to suffer from unwanted cold sores. The above methods can help you prevent the annoying virus from popping up and may even help you avoid spreading the virus to others. IF you take care, you may find that winter does nothing to increase your risk for a HSV-1 outbreak.





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