Cold sores can cause a range of health issues and uncomfortable symptoms. While not a common occurrence, the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) responsible, can lead to dizzy spells during an outbreak. Dizziness is most likely to occur if it’s the first time you’ve had cold sores.

The immune system can experience difficulty keeping the body healthy. If you lack the proper immunity to keep HSV-1 at bay, the blister might be one of several side painful effects that you must endure.

It is not uncommon to feel like you have a bad cold or flu. The body starts to ache and dizziness can become a factor.

We will look at the different cold sores symptoms and side effects. You will also be informed of other medical conditions that can make you feel dizzy as well as the reasons why your first outbreak is more likely to be more aggressive than recurrent infections.

Is Dizziness a Side Effect of Cold Sores?

Although not common, the herpes virus can lead to dizziness. Because cold sores are caused by a virus many issues can occur in some cases. Quite similar to conditions related to both cold and flu, cold sores can overwhelm your immune system.[1]

While the blisters will lead to pain and discomfort, your entire body can also suffer. Cold sores can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, and even dizziness. This is one of the main aspects that sets cold sores apart from other forms of lip and mouth sores.

If you are in the midst of your first cold sore outbreak a symptom such as dizziness is more common. First-time sufferers tend to experience more aggressive symptoms.[2] This means the whole body can suffer to some degree.

To summarize:

  • Cold sores can introduce a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms. Dizziness, while rare, is a potential side effect.
  • Because fever blisters are a product of a virus, it is not uncommon for your entire body to feel drained.

How to Tell if HSV-1 Is Making Me Feel Dizzy

One of the easiest ways to tell if HSV-1 is the reason for your dizziness is to assess your other health concerns. Do you have any conditions that predate your cold sore outbreak? Are you currently suffering from a known ear infection? Are you dealing with another condition that is taxing your immune health?

While it is not always wise to self-diagnose a condition, you know your body better than anyone. If you have been dealing with other known issues, then those could be to blame, rather than HSV-1.

If you have been able to rule out any other medical concerns that would account for your dizziness, simply treat your cold sore.

Treatment is essential for two very critical reasons:

  • Effective healing of your blister in the shortest possible time.
  • Treatment may prove if there is a correlation to your dizziness. If your lightheaded condition begins to improve as your cold sore heals, then you will have a conclusive verdict. However, if your cold sore is long gone and your dizziness has continued or gotten worse, then you will know that an alternative medical cause is responsible.

While the sore itself will never be the cause of your symptoms, healing tells you that the body is recovering. This will likely translate to diminished symptoms as the outbreak comes to an end. The virus will then return to a dormant state until reactivated by cold sore triggers in the future.

If you find yourself with dizziness after your sore has healed, then we encourage you to seek professional medical assistance. You could be suffering from a more severe ailment that will require diagnosis and treatment.

Which Health Issues Can Cause Dizzy Spells?

Although a host of conditions can result in dizzy spells, the primary causes involve common issues that can impact the body. It is entirely possible that your outbreak was triggered by an undiagnosed medical condition.

Noted below are a few of the most common causes of dizziness…

  • Any form of ear infection can cause vertigo. When your equilibrium is thrown off, you will feel unsteady and physically shaky as you walk and make sudden movements.
  • Another factor linked to vertigo is dehydration. When your body lacks proper fluids, it becomes weak. This can lead to a variety of issues with dizziness being one.
  • If you have low iron (anemia), you might also fall victim to dizziness. General weakness and fatigue are also common if you are anemic.
  • Individuals with low blood sugar often suffer bouts of lightheadedness. A headache, fatigue, and a general state of malaise are also common symptoms.
  • Sinus issues are capable of giving you an unsteady sensation. Varying in degrees depending on the sinus blockage, dizziness caused by sinus problems can be debilitating at times.

Why Are Primary Cold Sore Symptoms More Severe?

Primary cold sores symptoms are more severe because your body doesn’t yet know what it’s facing. Although it can fend off a variety of viruses, it is hard to fight against something it has never seen. When the body is initially charged with handling active HSV-1 the symptoms can be quite intense. Lack of proper immunity against the virus can cause every side effect to be worse.

The headaches, fatigue, nausea, and lymph node swelling is also possible. Additionally, during the primary outbreak, the blisters will likely be more painful than any future episode.

fever blisters and dizziness

While one cold sore outbreak is indeed one too many, your body will naturally be more equipped to handle recurrent infections. If you have a good quality of health, you will likely enter a stage where the blister itself becomes your only symptom. This is because your body will develop a certain level of resistance against HSV-1.

To recap:

  • Your primary outbreak is more severe because your body is not prepared. While your immune system will win the battle, it has never taken on this particular virus in the past. Your body, at this stage, lacks the ability to reduce the symptoms.
  • During your primary outbreak, you are more susceptible to uncommon symptoms and side effects. Dizziness would fall under this category.
  • Future outbreaks will likely present less of a problem because your body will have a notebook to follow. Courtesy of immune resistance against HSV-1, any future occurrences will likely be quite minor.

What Treatments Are Available for Severe Cold Sores?

While a medical professional can introduce aggressive topical creams, cortisone injections, and oral medication, basic OTC remedies should work. Unless your sores have become infected, solutions such as HERP-B-GONE should heal your fever blister quickly.

It is worth noting that even the most severe blisters will respond to treatment. Severe does not necessarily mean that extensive care is required. Even the most painful blisters will follow their natural cycle. OTC creams and gels can make this process much faster.

As long as you avoid touching cold sores, positive results will likely occur in just days. If you are in the midst of a brutal first outbreak just know that patience is a virtue. As your blisters begin to heal the virus will once again become dormant. Once this transpires, you should be free of all symptoms and your lip will produce fresh skin where the blister once occupied.

Can cold sores make you feel dizzy?

To summarize:

  • OTC remedies are the way to go regarding an initial treatment. It is only if these treatments fail that you should seek professional medical help. If this situation arises, your physician might recommend you to a dermatologist.
  • Patience is a vital part of the healing process during your first outbreak. Even the most aggressive cold sores will heal. Your job is to treat them and avoid introducing any form of an irritant.


While cold sores do have a standard symptom guide, the rare side effects can be wide-ranging.[3] Although you should never be an alarmist, you should always be alert to the possibility of rare symptoms. You might even find yourself in a general state of sickness that could pass for the common cold.

While a blister is a physical manifestation, it is more than just some random bump or lump. When HSV-1 is active, it can produce a general state of sickness. This sickness can prompt many side effects that can leave you feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Although your dizzy spells might not be the result of active HSV-1, it is certainly possible. Monitor any unusual symptoms that occur. If they continue to linger long after your outbreak has concluded, which generally takes up to 2 weeks, then you should consult your physician.


  1. Bansal A.S., Bradley A.S., Bishop K.N., Kiani-Alikhan S. and Ford B. (2012) Chronic fatigue syndrome, the immune system and viral infection. Brain Behav. Immun. 26, 24–31 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.06.016
  2. Boivin G, Malette B, Goyette N. Disseminated herpes simplex virus type 1 primary infection in a healthy individual. The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases & Medical Microbiology. 2009;20(4):122-125.
  3. Sanei-Moghaddam A, Loizou P, Fish BM. An unusual presentation of herpes infection in the head and neck. BMJ Case Reports. 2013;2013:bcr2012007928. doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007928.