Cold sores and fever blisters can be bad enough on their own. Treating it is likely the only thing on your mind. Thankfully, they are fairly manageable with the right over-the-counter treatment options and a bit of time.
But, have you ever thought about how your state of mind, a ‘trauma’ to your body, or emotions, might affect cold sores? Can stress cause cold sores to flare up? To learn the answer to this, it’s important first to know that when you have a cold sore, it is a form of the herpes virus.
Once you have that particular virus, it remains in your body, no matter what. Typically, the virus lays dormant, so you aren’t continually getting cold sores. Studies have shown, however, that a stressful situation can cause a flare up of cold sores or fever blisters.
How Can Stress Trigger a Cold Sore Outbreak?
Stress affects our skin in many ways. More often than not, these ways are harmful and damaging. Our bodies aren’t meant to deal with constant stress. But, in a world that moves so quickly, it’s impossible not to experience it from time to time. Fever blister flare-ups are just one way that our body responds. If you already have the HSV-1 virus (herpes) inside you, flare-ups can happen anytime.
Stress can push these outbreaks along by weakening our immune system. The cells our body uses to fight back against such things are compromised, in a way. This allows the virus to sneak its way through. That doesn’t mean you’ll get multiple cold sores.
Different Causes of Stress Encountered
When we think of stress and how it affects our bodies, it’s easy to think of mental stress, first. That’s a factor that causes cold sore flare-ups. However, there are a few other stress types to consider. Once you know what they are, it may be easier to manage your flare-ups.
- Colds/Fever: Although cold sores aren’t caused by the common cold, they live up to their name. If your body’s immune system is weakened by sickness, a cold sore can break through. Something as simple as the common cold can cause this. A fever can also lead to an outbreak (hence, fever blisters). This has a lot to do with your system’s antibodies working elsewhere to make sure you get better.
- Mental/Emotional Stress: When you’re under a lot of stress, your body spikes in the production of a hormone called cortisol. This is why you might get that ‘on edge,’ or jittery feeling when you’re extremely stressed. It might give you enough adrenaline to hit a punching bag for a while. But, in the meantime, it’s completely depleting your immune system. Again, that’s when cold sores can come through at the worst possible times, such as when you have an interview, or it’s close to your wedding day.
- Trauma to the Lips: Did you know that certain parts of your body can experience stress? When that happens to the lips, cold sores are quick take advantage of it. If your mouth has been ‘hit,’ by anything, or you experience a cut on the lip, it’s the perfect opportunity for a fever blister flare up. This can even happen after serious dental work, such as getting new braces fitted.
- Sun Exposure: Getting a sunburn anywhere on your body isn’t the most pleasant experience. But, we don’t often think about how the sun affects our lips/mouth. Unfortunately, it’s more than we usually realize. Over-exposure to the sun can cause a burn on your lips or other damage. This type of traumatic stress, again, makes for a prime cold sore environment.
Cold Sores on the Lips /Lip Line
A cold sore on the lip is most common. No one knows for sure what causes them to appear in that area. The prevailing theory is that the lips are a sensitive part of the body and are more prone to dryness and exposure to the sun. Keep a chapstick with you and use it if you notice the symptoms of a cold sore.
Cold Sores in/on the Nose
Fever blisters can appear on your nose. They still burn and are painful, but not quite as much as they burn when on your lips because you don’t stretch the skin as much as you do your mouth.
Cold Sores Inside/Outside the Mouth
When you get a sore inside of your mouth, it’s called a canker sore. It is not a fever blister, and it’s essential that it is treated differently. One of the treatments that we recommend is Durham’s Canker-Rid. Cold sores are treated with proven ingredients, and if they are put in the mouth, they will mix with the saliva and get into your body. This could make you ill. Even natural ingredients, such as tea tree oil, can cause you to feel sick.
Prevention & Treatment of Cold Sores
It’s better to prevent cold sores from showing up than to have to treat them after an outbreak. There are a few prevention methods to consider when you think about the types of stress involved in these potential flare-ups.
- Try to reduce your emotional stress levels. This isn’t always easy to do. But, managing them as best you can help to reduce the overall risk of outbreaks. Find something that allows you a bit of serenity.
- Be sure to take care of your mouth and lips. Trauma to the lips might seem minor, but it’s not trivial to those affected cells. Something as simple as your dentist stretching out your lip can cause problems. Being cautious of things like this can be beneficial in preventing flare-ups. Taking care of your lips also involves reducing sun exposure. Or, you can make sure to protect your lips with a high SPF lip balm.
- Finally, a good prevention method is to take care of your body as a whole. Keeping your immune system in top shape is one of the best things you can do. This will make your antibodies strong enough to fight back against outbreaks. Factors, like staying hydrated, controlling your diet, and exercising, are all ways to prepare your body for any possible ‘battles.’
Treating of a Cold Sore Flare Up
If you do have a flare-up, you should treat it as quickly as possible. Using a medicated, topical cream is typically one of the most useful options. Not only can they help to stop the pain, but they can reduce some of the other unsightly symptoms.
Understand that no treatment will remove the virus entirely. Even after your cold sore goes away, the herpes virus remains in your body. But, it’s what you can do to keep it in a dormant state that makes all the difference. Try to manage your stress as much as possible, and keep cold sores at bay.
Can You Use a Relaxation Technique Like Meditation to Reduce Symptoms of Cold Sores?
While relaxation techniques can reduce stress, leading to a reduced chance of outbreak, meditation is unlikely to reduce cold sore symptoms. However, studies show that reduced stress can lead to faster healing times. Once you have an outbreak, the best treatment is often medication or an antiviral cream such as docosanol, valacyclovir or famciclovir.
What Prescription Antiviral Medications Can Improve Healing Time for Cold Sore Infection?
Because cold sores are caused by a viral infection such as the herpes simplex virus, your healthcare provider may suggest an antiviral medication to help you heal more quickly and relieve discomfort. The antiviral drugs used to treat cold sores include valacyclovir (Valtrex), acyclovir (Zovirax), and penciclovir (Denavir) Or even an OTC ointment such as docosanol (Abreva).
Can Lysine Help Cure a Cold Sore?
Lysine is not a treatment for cold sores, although it may aid in the prevention and shortening of an outbreak. Any antiviral drugs prescribed by a doctor for cold sores should be continued. Those who want to start using lysine supplements should see their doctor beforehand.
How Can I Help Reduce The Tingle and Itching of a Cold Sore?
To lesson pain, itching and other discomfort try an OTC pain reliever such as acetaminophen and apply antiviral cream on the small blisters as soon as you see them form. Ice packs or ice chips may help relieve some discomfort as well.
What Should I Do if the Blisters Burst Causing Fluid or Pus to Drain?
Be very careful if a cold sore pops and be sure to clean it right away in a sterile environment. Use gloves to clean the area, removing the fluid, then apple a creap and bandage the area. Cold sore fluid can be dangerous and cause the virus to spread to other people by skin-to-skin contact or other parts of your body. When you are through cleaning the area, wash your hands and anything else that may have come into contact with the fluid.