The World Health Organization estimates that 67% of people under the age of 50 carry the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). While most of us have the virus that causes oral herpes, far fewer will go on to exhibit any of the symptoms. Do you know the real cause? There’s a direct correlation between a weakened immune system and cold sores.
You’re MUCH more vulnerable to cold sores when your immune system has been compromised. Perhaps you’re run down due to a lack of sleep, or you’ve been under a lot of stress at work? You may be getting treatment for a severe illness, such as HIV Aids or cancer. If so, your body’s immune system cannot function at full capacity (because you’re ‘immunocompromised’ and not ‘immunocompetent’).
There is no cure for cold sores or reliable prevention method, but you can reduce the number of recurrent cold sore outbreaks. It’s possible to boost your resistance and keep the virus in a dormant state (in the dorsal nerve ganglia). Some necessary lifestyle adjustments and greater awareness of your own personal triggers can reduce your chances of activating the virus. Given time, you’ll find out when you’re most commonly affected by the herpes virus.
We have put together an in-depth guide. This will give you the information needed to keep cold sores away and stay healthy. Find out why a weakened immune system is a problem. Improve your diet and/or take Herp Rescue to fight back against the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Let’s explore what’s happening and why this approach works!
How Does the Immune System Work?
Your immune system works due to proteins that are known as antibodies. These proteins are formed as a means to destroy abnormal cells that appear within the body. Antibodies can enable you to defeat bouts of the flu and common cold.
They can also protect you against dangerous threats, such as cancer. When you are healthy, it is easy to take for granted the power of antibodies. In fact, the average person will likely never know how close they had come to sickness because antibodies snuffed out a threat before it ever materialized.
Another essential part of the immune system is known as the cell-mediated immune system. This is the backup response system that keeps “records” of prior illness. The cell-mediated system is a collection of cells rather than potent antibodies.
The critical importance of the cell-mediated system is that it allows the body to identify a previous attack and destroy it before it invades the core system. Vaccines and immunizations are developed in this fashion.
The body is given a minimal amount of a disease which allows your immune system to identify it. This is what will enable you to fend off the flu, for example, in the midst of a harsh season.
- Your body produces proteins, knowns as antibodies, to destroy abnormal cells that develop. Antibodies are what allow you (a presumably healthy person) to fight off various ailments without too much difficulty.
- The system acts as your filing cabinet. It is a collection of cells rather than antibodies. It stores “memories” of prior attacks on the system. This helps your body identify various types of bacteria and disease in case they return.
- Vaccines are made from a disease to allow the system to make a record. This, in the long-term, can help you to fend off an attack. In this regard getting just a touch of the flu in a flu vaccine can prevent yours from having the flu during a rough season.
Why Does Weak Immune Function Lead to Cold Sores?
When your guard is down, HSV-1 is much more likely to become active.
Think of your immune health as a large gate that protects your property. While many intruders will visit the outside, and perhaps even attempt to climb the gate, the protection is just too strong.
However, a weakened immune system can allow various entrance paths to form within the gate. This can, unfortunately, lead to the body being vulnerable to various types of virus and disease. HSV-1 is just one of many.
Your general state of well-being is critical. Because the virus has no cure, your best line of defense against an outbreak is your physical wellness. A robust immune system can allow powerful antibodies to keep HSV-1 at bay most of the time. Of course, it’s still possible to get many cold sores in a row.
- When your immune system is compromised, your body becomes vulnerable to sickness. Cold, flu, HSV-1 outbreaks, etc. It is your protector against both internal and external bacterial and viral intrusion.
- You need antibodies to fight the battle. When your immune system is weak, that means that attention is being applied elsewhere to repair your weakness. This can allow HSV-1 to sneak through the back door. When all hands are not on deck, your immune system can have a tough time trying to fight multiple issues at once.
Why is the First Cold Sore Outbreak Often Worse?
Your first outbreak is often worse due to your cell mediated immune system having no record of the newly acquired HSV-1. Even people with a healthy immune system can fall victim. Simply stated, your body will always have a difficult time fighting what it has never seen.
Because your body has no record of the herpes simplex virus before your first outbreak of cold sores, your overall symptoms are quite harsh. Not only will you experience the core symptoms but also a host of others. It is not uncommon for some fever blisters sufferers to define their initial outbreak as something similar to that of the flu.
The experience will allow your cell-mediated system to make a record. Once the exposure has been defined, your body can identify it in case of recurrence. It is not uncommon for recurring outbreaks to involve nothing more than a sore.
- Initial cold sore outbreaks can be quite harsh due to your body having no record of HSV-1. The cell-mediated portion of your immune system is unfamiliar with the virus. This unfamiliarity prevents your body from introducing the proper “fight plan” to protect you.
- For a large percentage of HSV-1 carriers, the only point of contention is a painful sore and its appearance. This is due to the cell-mediated system having a memory of prior immune intrusion by the same virus.
Where Does HSV-1 Live When Not Active?
The herpes simplex one virus lives in the trigeminal nerve when it is dormant. Often in the cheek area or rear of one side of the jaw. Most notably near the ear. The trigeminal nerve itself is responsible for the sensation in your face in addition to crucial motor functions. Biting and chewing is the most common. This critical nerve is also the largest of the cranial nerves.
Residing in the trigeminal nerve, HSV-1 can be caused by an almost endless number of ‘triggers.’ Once the virus becomes active, it will form a blister (or cluster of blisters) on the area where initial transmission occurs. This is usually a specific spot on the lips or mouth area.
While dormant, the herpes simplex virus will do your body no harm. The only complication of the virus living in your body is the threat of a viral outbreak. Beyond that issue, there is no other valid reason for concern. You will never “feel that you have it” when HSV-1 is dormant.
- When HSV-1 is dormant, it lives within the trigeminal nerve. The virus is often located in a specific cheek or jaw location near the ear.
- HSV-1 will cause no harm to your body during a dormant stage.
What Happens If I am Immunocompromised?
If your immune system is compromised, you are at risk of cold sores. While a weakened immune system doesn’t mean that an outbreak is inevitable, it increases the chances of it happening. This is never truer than when you have a severe medical condition such as cancer, untreated diabetes, AIDS, etc. Getting chemotherapy is highly toxic to the body (not just the cancerous cells), and this will make you far more vulnerable.
If you are in the midst of a minor illness, it is imperative that you treat it and get adequate rest. Coming down with the common cold, for example, can be cleared up quickly and the symptoms reduced. The last thing you want is to have your system dealing with another health concern.
- If your body is compromised to some degree, you are susceptible to the herpes virus. Medical issues such as AIDS and cancer, for example, can leave you in a long-term state of poor health.
- You can have a weakened immune system and not be aware that your body’s ability to fight off a virus has been negatively affected.
How Do I Boost My Immune Health & Stay Healthy?
Building your immune health is relatively easy and can be achieved in many ways. While there is somewhat of a guidebook to follow, you can still live life at your pace. It should come as no surprise that the best way of avoiding cold sores is built on the concept of health and wellness.
HSV carriers can find comfort in knowing that no impossible step needs to be taken. Just the basic steps that we should all strive for when it comes to protecting and strengthing your body.
Having the right cold sore diet is a great way to build your immune system. Eating healthy foods and avoiding junk is very important. While spicy and citrus type foods can trigger cold sores, healthy choices will improve your body.
Foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine can be beneficial.
Keeping your weight under control while also gaining strength and stamina is important.
This is where exercise enters the fold. The task of moving your body can give you more life than you could ever imagine. Exercising for just 30 minutes per day can significantly improve your immune health.
Introducing vitamins and minerals into your life can help your system and heal your body.
While diet is critical, not every food item will give you what you need. Taking daily supplements can allow your immune system to function at peak efficiency.
Poor immune health isn’t always caused by a disease. It can be caused by a perpetually tired body. All of those nights where you cheated yourself of sleep can come back to bit you in the long run.
It is critical to get at least 7-8 hours of sound sleep per night. Sleep allows your body to heal and recharge. When you get enough sleep, your immune system will work better and respond to your daily needs.
Sickness is not something you can 100% avoid, but you can do your best to place yourself in the right environments. This means staying away from people who are ill.
If your best friend has a bad cold, it is wise to take a little break until they’re recovered. Doing what you can to dodge illness can help a lot. Why give your body the task of fighting a sickness when you can avoid being ill entirely?
Adopting a positive attitude can grant you clarity and mental stability.
Being in a rotten mood is draining in every sense of the word. The more you become drained mentally, emotionally, and spiritually the more you will suffer physically. A positive outlook on a daily basis can give you a boost.
Can HSV-1 Be Kept Dormant if Your Immune System is Strong?
While there is, unfortunately, no foolproof way to keep HSV-1 dormant, it is possible to keep it dormant longer if your immune system is healthy.
Keeping a strong body while avoiding common cold sores triggers can keep fever blisters at bay. It is not out of the question to keep HSV-1 dormant for many years.
Often, when you are in the midst of a cold sore outbreak, you can point to the trigger. That applies even if that trigger is daily stress from life. Your objective is to identify everything that can awaken the virus and do your best to dodge the arrows.
- Having strong immune health can keep HSV-1 dormant for a long time. While not a guaranteed protectant, it is better than the alternative.
- Many cold sore sufferers often fall victim to known triggers and let their guard down.
Can You Get an HSV-1 Vaccination?
Unfortunately, there is no approved vaccination available at this time. Although the medical community has been researching the subject for many years, nothing has been approved by the Federal Drugs Administration (FDA).
At this time, outside of OTC treatments, the only thing your physician can offer is a selection of antiviral medications.
The most notable include the following:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
While most HSV-1 cases do not require a prescribed antiviral, some people need them in severe cases. There are also many over-the-counter cold sore medicines that work.
Can you be Exposed to HSV-1 Without Being Infected?
You can be exposed to HSV-1 and never contract the virus. In fact, the majority of all adults have been exposed to the virus by the age of 50.
There is a big difference between viral exposure and transmission. Because HSV-1 is only transferred through contaminated saliva, there are only a few ways to acquire the virus. Even touching contaminated saliva will likely not result in a viral transfer. If simple exposure caused the virus, then only a few would not have HSV-1.
It is estimated that roughly 50-80 percent of the adult population in the United States carry HSV-1. That means that you likely know someone who has herpes simplex one. If you have a close relationship with this person, you have potentially been exposed to the virus.
- While most everyone has been exposed to HSV-1, there is an important difference between exposure and transfer.
Do Cold Sores Make You Immune to Genital Herpes?
Having HSV-1 oral herpes can give you immunity from HSV-2 genital herpes. Because your immune system can store a record of HSV-1 after your initial outbreak, you are many times protected from acquiring HSV-2. This is why it is rare to find someone who has both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Although strange, your best defense against HSV-2 ‘may’ be becoming a carrier of HSV-1. While this is certainly a trade that no one would ever willingly make, it’s an example of how the virus works.
- It is quite rare to contract genital HSV-2 if you already have oral HSV-1. This is because your cell-mediated system already has a record of HSV. This is the same memory system that causes recurrences of HSV-1 to be less harsh (symptomatically) each time. Your body can shield against what it has already fought in the past.
HSV-1 is nothing to be feared. In fact, your own body is your best defense against an outbreak. This is why living your life healthily and avoiding the more obvious triggers could result in fewer recurrences of the virus.
Oral herpes can’t be cured, but the number of outbreaks can be reduced. But, if you do notice a tingling sensation (during the prodrome stage), you should apply HERP-B-GONE cream to reduce the recovery time significantly.