Cold sores can flare up for many reasons. Some common causes include extremely cold temperatures, UV rays from sunlight, or stress. But, some people seem to experience outbreaks far more than others. Is it just a coincidence, or are cold sores hereditary?
No, cold sores are not passed genetically. They are caused by the herpes virus. While the virus is contagious, and even children can get it or be born with it, it is not passed through genes.
Like most viruses, the herpes simplex virus, or HSV-1, is passed on through contact. It is not generational, and if you never contract the virus, you won’t be susceptible to cold sores. However, studies have shown that as many as 90% of American adults do have the virus within them.
Even if you contract HSV-1 at any age, it doesn’t mean you’re prone to a life of cold sores. You may only experience one or two in your lifetime. While they can be embarrassing at the time, you may not think they’re a big deal. However, people get regular flare-ups may be wondering if there is something bigger behind the cause of their outbreaks.
Are Cold Sores Passed Genetically?
Cold sores are not genetic. However, recent research has discovered that there is a mutated gene found in some people. This gene may make those individuals more susceptible to cold sores. However, they would still need to contract the virus for the gene to make a difference. The virus itself is not passed down through genes.
So, why do some people tend to get cold sores more than others? There are several possible causes, and we will cover them in this article. If you are prone to outbreaks, knowing the possible reasons why may help you to prevent them as frequently in the future.
Can You Be Born with Cold Sores?
Many people believe that cold sores are hereditary because young children can get them. Sometimes, you may even see a baby with a blister. This isn’t a trait passed on through their parents. A child will likely get cold sore when it has been spread from someone else if they were born with HSV-1.
Remember that upwards of 90% of American adults have the herpes simplex virus. It’s likely that you, your partner, or family members who hold your baby have it. Cold sores are incredibly contagious. One of the most common ways they are passed from person to person is through kissing. If someone holding your child kisses them, they could easily contract the virus and be open to a flare-up.
Even if your child doesn’t get a cold sore, they may get the virus that allows them to occur throughout their life.
Another common place for children to be exposed to fever blisters is in daycare, preschool, or school. Being around many other children makes it easier to catch the virus. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll experience cold sores right away, but it can allow the virus to live dormant inside them.
When Are Cold Sores Most Contagious?
Whether you’re trying to protect your kids or other loved ones from a potential cold sore, knowing just how contagious they are is important.
Cold sores can last several days, to a couple of weeks. During that time, cold sores go through stages. Eventually, the blister will go away on its own and clear up completely. However, that doesn’t always mean you aren’t still contagious to others.
The first sign of a cold sore is usually tingling or itching around the mouth. Even before you see any redness or any blister, you could be contagious. Cold sores can be contagious weeks before the actual infection occurs.
The riskiest stage of a blister is the oozing stage. This occurs when pus begins to seep out. It opens up the cold sore, exposing the virus even more. The scabbing stage that follows is also contagious. These are the two most painful and unsightly stages, as well.
The oozing and scabbing stages are easy to identify. And while scabbing promotes healing, it does not mean that you’re out of the woods with a blister being contagious.
You could show no visible signs of a cold sore for several days before you can consider yourself fully healed. Additionally, you shouldn’t continue to feel any of the symptoms. They may be most contagious at certain stages, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that you can still get the virus, or give it to others, at almost any stage.
Why Are Cold Sores More Likely in My Family?
If you feel as though your family frequently gets cold sores, there are likely a few reasons. First, living under the same roof makes it difficult to avoid direct contact with someone, and the things they touch. If someone in your household has a cold sore, everyone in the house has to be diligent about not catching it themselves.
It’s not just direct contact that can spread a fever blister. Another reason cold sores could keep spreading around through your family is based on the objects you touch.
The herpes simplex virus can live on inanimate objects for a while. If someone with a blister touches something, and then you touch it, you could contract the virus and experience a flare-up. Never share things that have been anywhere near the affected area. This includes lipsticks, toothbrushes, utensils, drinking glasses, etc. Don’t ever share makeup or creams, etc., that go anywhere near the face.
If the right precautions aren’t taken, you could be spreading a cold sore back and forth between family members for a long time. It’s not that your family is somehow more prone to getting them, it’s that the virus is extremely contagious.
What Else Triggers a Cold Sore Flare-Up?
Sometimes, one of the best ways to avoid getting cold sores too frequently is to recognize what triggers them for you. Everyone is different. But, some common factors are typically linked to the cause of a blister. They include things like:
- UV rays from the sun
- Harsh, cold temperatures
- Weakened immune system
- Trauma to the lips/mouth
These aren’t exclusively the only reasons people experience outbreaks. But, they are some of the most common triggers. Once you’re able to pin down what causes your frequent flare-ups, you can take action against it. This can help to lessen the frequency and severity of your cold sores.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Because so many people have HSV-1, there are over-the-counter medicines for cold sores. Choosing the best treatment depends on your personal needs and wants. If you’re just trying to cover up or conceal a sore, you may want to look at the Compeed Invisible Cold Sore Patch.
The Compeed patch is a small concealing patch designed to be placed directly on top of a blister. Not only does it cover it up, but it is medicated. The medication will help to soothe symptoms and speed up healing time. When the blister is covered, it also makes it less contagious. If you have small children around, or live in close quarters with others, it’s a safe and thoughtful way to protect your family.
How Quickly Can a Cold Sore Be Treated?
One of the best ways to avoid long-term spreading is to get rid of a cold sore quickly. The best way to do this is by treating it at the first sign of symptoms. Once you’ve experienced more than one cold sore in your lifetime, you should know these early symptoms fairly well.
If you start certain treatments early enough, you may be able to stop a blister from forming. Even if it does form, it will likely be less intense. Some treatment options are even designed for 24-hour relief. One over-the-counter treatment that claims to heal cold sores overnight is Releev 1 Day Cold Sore Treatment. You simply use the medication at the earliest sign of a cold sore before going to bed.
Can I Prevent Cold Sore Outbreaks Completely?
Until there is a cure for the herpes simplex virus, cold sores will never be completely preventable. It may seem as though you or someone in your family gets them frequently. Unfortunately, no matter how often you experience a flare-up, they can be painful and embarrassing.
The best thing you can do is take precautionary measures to avoid frequent flare-ups. While you may not be able to avoid them entirely, you can reduce their likelihood. If you do find that you’re prone to outbreaks, keep a treatment option with you at all times. Again, the earlier you treat a cold sore, the better. It will be less painful and have less time to spread.
If you get cold sores quite often, don’t blame your genes. Although it may seem like your family passes around fever blisters frequently, they aren’t hereditary. Understanding how easy cold sores are to ‘catch’ is a great way to be more careful with everyday habits. Stay cautious and protect yourself as much as possible, and you can reduce the number of outbreaks you’ll have to go through.
If you do get an outbreak, treat it with the best cold sore medicine. This could shorten the healing time to less than 72 hours.