One of the main triggers of a cold sore outbreak is a sickness. When your immune system isn’t sufficiently robust to keep the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) under control, it is more likely to become active.

Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent cold sores from forming, there are some preventative techniques that we can all utilize. Ensuring that your immune system is strong reduces the likelihood of activating herpes simplex one.

Becoming ill doesn’t always have to result in painful cold sore blisters for two weeks. Apply treatment as soon as you experience a tingling feeling during the prodromal stage for the fastest results.

In this guide, you will gain an understanding of why sickness causes cold sores. We’ll also introduce you to some proven ways to stay healthy and increase your chances of remaining cold sore free.

Why Do I Only Get Cold Sores When I’m Sick?

Weakened immune health can be the result of a temporary illness or a chronic condition. The longer your health is weakened, the more susceptible you are to viruses.

HSV-1 is a latent virus. Your body, when healthy, is continually fighting to keep it a bay. When your immune defenses breakdown or are weakened, the probability of an outbreak increases sharply.

Key points:

  • Your body, when healthy, fights to keep HSV-1 dormant. You are not aware of this struggle when you’re in good health.[1]
  • During times of illness, whether short or long-term, your immune system can struggle to keep HSV-1 dormant. Ailments can tax your body. The weaker (and more distracted) it becomes, the harder it is to keep HSV-1 under control.

Why is a Robust Immune System Vital?

New scientific research has revealed that the body produces a protein called interferon-l. It determines the body’s immune response. While you can’t change your genes, you can take steps to stay healthier.

Although healthy people who are genetically better suited to fighting off the virus still experience cold sores, this group won’t be affected nearly as often. To stay free from cold sores if you’re not in this group, a series of lifestyle modifications can make a lasting difference.

Your body works best when it is firing on all cylinders. This goes for HSV-1 prevention as well as every aspect of physical wellness across the board.

Which Illnesses Increase the Risk of Cold Sores?

The truth is that almost every illness can increase the risk of cold sores. From the common cold to cancer, a health ailment or illness can trigger an outbreak of HSV-1.

Minor illnesses (e.g. common cold) are less of a threat than diseases that compromise your immune system in a more serious way. But, don’t underestimate how much a cold can weaken your body’s immune response.


Flu can cause a cold sore outbreak. Depending on the severity of the strain of flu it is possible for an aggressive outbreak to take place.

Attacking your entire body, flu has the potential to leave you in a bed-ridden state. Introducing a host of painful symptoms, your body has to work overtime to fight off the flu.

Common Cold

Common cold is a well-known trigger. Although relatively easy to alleviate, the typical 24-72 hour period of illness is more than enough time to weaken your immune system’s response.

Build up your immune system through nutrient-rich food and drink choices. Vitamin C, for example, is critical at this time. Keeping yourself hydrated is essential.

Why Do I Keep Getting Cold Sores?

HSV-1, once contracted, lives naturally in a dormant state in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). It can be activated at any time, but it is often triggered by the same repetitive factors. That’s why people get cold sores at the same time each month.

If you are unsure what is causing your outbreaks, you need to look carefully at what you do and when you most commonly get affected. For example, many women tend to get cold sores during their period.

How Do I Prevent Cold Sores When I’m Sick?

Take steps to improve your health. This can begin with staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. Consuming high vitamin foods, beverages, and supplements can also be beneficial.

You can protect your lips from external irritants. Because some illnesses can lead to dryness and cracking, applying a quality chapstick, such as Herpecin-L Lip Balm Stick can help to keep your lips moist.

What Steps Can I Take to Stay Healthy?

As an HSV-1 carrier, your secret to staying healthy is no different to anyone else’s. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are critical. Improving your health, in all areas, is a lifestyle choice. You have to embrace it.

Improve Your Diet

Improving the quality of your food and drink consumption is critical. But, it can be hard to get all of the vitamins and nutrients that the body needs to remain healthy.

Supplements can be helpful. Containing 100% all natural ingredients, the supplement Herp Rescue Immune System Support can be highly beneficial. Rich in lysine, zinc, oregano oil, vitamin C, and a host of other immune boosting properties, it is an immune-boosting supplement for those who carry HSV-1.

The key to improving your diet is to select immune-boosting foods. Stay away from the soda and junk food. Avoid foods that are high in arginine. Your health is the byproduct of what you consume.

Get More Exercise

People often lead a sedentary lifestyle as they get older, but now is the time to change your ways. Regular cardiovascular exercise, when combined with a healthy diet, will maximize the benefits.

You don’t have to push yourself to the limit to benefit from getting more exercise.  Just 30 minutes of low-impact exercise per day can make all the difference to your long-term health.

Regular activity keeps your body healthy, fights off illness, promotes healthy skin and gives you a more positive mental outlook.[2] You don’t need to run on a treadmill.  Try something as simple as taking a brisk walk around your local park. It’ll be an enjoyable experience that will leave you feeling refreshed.

According to the American Health Association, developing a regular exercise routine can improve your health in many ways.

Listed below are the benefits of cardiovascular activity:

  • Improved blood flow and circulation
  • Weight management
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduces (and manages) high blood pressure
  • Protects your bones and prevents bone loss
  • Increases your natural energy levels
  • Increases your overall muscle tone and mass
  • Helps you to manage stress

Sleep Longer

Improving your sleep quality can positively impact your immune system. A continued lack of sound sleep can wear your body down.

Developing a nightly routine can be beneficial. Knowing when to shut things down for the night will prevent your body from entering a state of gradual decline.

Here are some quick tips…

  • Develop a routine where you get at least 7 hours of sleep.[3]
  • Set a time for bed.
  • Do not stay up just for the sake of staying up.
  • Earn your sleep. You will sleep better if you’re physically and mentally taxed.

Does illness cause cold sores?

Avoid Stress

Your health is affected in every way when you’re under stress.[4] Learn how to control what you can and let go of the rest. If you can limit the stress in your life, your health will improve.

While some stress is healthy and natural, carrying extra baggage and burden is not. The ability to compartmentalize and live in the moment can improve your general outlook on life.

WebMD notes that one of the best ways to reduce your stress and anxiety is to develop coping strategies. So much of life is not what happens to you but rather how you respond.

Not every issue is an important issue. Some things are not worth your concern. Grasping on to mental and emotional clutter can be damaging to your well-being.

Here are some tips that you can utilize to manage your situation:

  • Write things down. Taking notes of what is bothering you is a source of therapy. Keeping track of your stress can help you eliminate the causes.
  • Release your feelings. The ability to laugh, cry, and talk things out can be beneficial. Keeping things bottled up can be harmful. Turmoil can make you physically ill. So much weight can be lifted by having a support system and a listening ear.
  • Find an outlet for your burdens. Taking up a hobby or a recreational activity can keep your mind in motion. Allowing your worries to keep you company will only make your situation worse.
  • Live in the present. There is no need to be concerned about a problem that has yet to occur. Learning how to live in the moment can help you to maintain a sound mind and body.

Have a Positive Disposition 

A more cheerful disposition can improve your health. When you are down in the dumps, it is easy to quit both mentally and physically.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can change many aspects of your life by changing your attitude. This includes embracing a happy demeanor in the face of adversity.

By staying in control, you are less likely to fall victim to external influences. While complex, this is just another way that you can keep your immune system healthy.

Can Cold Sores Cause Sickness?

Cold sores can cause sickness and sickness can cause cold sores. Weakened immune system can trigger an outbreak and leave you feeling quite ill.

Can You Get Flu-Like Symptoms from a Cold Sore?

Primary cold sore outbreaks can be aggressive because your body has no record of HSV-1. Because the cell-mediated portion of your immune system has no record of the virus, primary symptoms can introduce concerns that are similar to those of cold and flu.

In severe cases, an HSV-1 outbreak can leave you bed-ridden. The reason that an outbreak is often minor is your body has the tools to fight it off. However, it does not take much to compromise those defenses. When that occurs, HSV-1 can be quite aggressive.

Why do I get cold sores when feeling unwell?

Primary cold sore symptoms can include:

  • High fever
  • Painful gums (partial gum erosion)
  • Sore and scratchy throat
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Ear and jaw discomfort

Secondary outbreaks are far less severe. Once your immune system develops a record of HSV-1, it can fight it accordingly during future outbreaks.

Other Types of Sores Appear around the Mouth When Sick

Beside cold sores, canker sores are very common. They are generically caused by stress, harsh foods and beverages, dental work, mouth injury etc. Canker sores are small ulcers that grow inside of the mouth. They primarily occur inside the cheek area and on the tongue. They are not caused by any kind of virus.

While everyone can get minor canker sores, severe sores can be a sign of a more severe issue.[5] Although not always the case, frequent sores can be a byproduct of an undiagnosed health concern.

Noted below are potential causes of severe canker sores…

  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Iron deficiency
  • Gastrointestinal issues (early onset celiac or Crohn’s disease)

Canker sores that are related to severe health concerns often include more serious symptoms such as chronic fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, or swollen lymph nodes.


  1. Arbuckle JH, Turner A-MW, Kristie TM. Analysis of HSV viral reactivation in explants of sensory neurons. Current protocols in microbiology. 2014;35:14E.6.1-14E.6.21. doi:10.1002/9780471729259.mc14e06s35.
  2. Turner JE. Is immunosenescence influenced by our lifetime “dose” of exercise? Biogerontology. 2016;17:581-602. doi:10.1007/s10522-016-9642-z.
  3. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National sleep foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health. 2015;1(4):233–243. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004.
  4. Sainz B, Loutsch JM, Marquart ME, Hill JM. Stress-associated immunomodulation and herpes simplex virus infections. Med Hypotheses 2001. March;56(3):348–356. doi: 10.1054/mehy.2000.1219
  5. Edgar NR, Saleh D, Miller RA. Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis: A Review. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2017;10(3):26-36.