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Your lifestyle can play an important role in managing cold sores. By making certain lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce the number of outbreaks you have. You may also be able to reduce the symptoms and their severity.

General Guidelines

Avoid Excessive Exposure to the Sun

Sunlight is known to cause outbreaks of cold sores. Although it is impossible to avoid all sun exposure there are steps to decrease the sun's effect. Use sunscreen on your lips and skin. Also, whenever you go outside in sunny weather, wear a large-brimmed hat. This will help to protect your face from the ultraviolet rays.

Reduce Physical and Emotional Stress

Physical and emotional stress may reduce the body’s ability to fight herpes simplex virus (HSV). This can trigger an outbreak of cold sores. Exercise may actually help to reduce emotional stress. However, an excessive amount of exercise can weaken the body. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help to reduce emotional stress.

Practice Good Hygiene Habits

Good hygiene can prevent the spread of cold sores. It can also help to reduce the length and severity of the outbreaks. During an outbreak:

  • Avoid touching the sores. Especially avoid contact with any open cuts on your skin.
  • Wash your hands often during the day.
  • Take care not to spread the virus to other parts of your body, such as the eyes and genital area.

Get Adequate Sleep and Eat a Healthful Diet

The body heals fastest when it receives rest and good nutrition. Strive for a good night’s sleep. Eat a balanced, healthful diet on a daily basis.

References:

Cold sores. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/common/cold_sores.html. Updated October 2010. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Herpes labialis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 27, 2011. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Herpes simplex: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/herpes-simplex/diagnosis-treatment/herpes-simplex-diagnosis-treatment-and-outcome. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Kuehl B. Cold sores: how to prevent and treat them. Skin Care Guide website. Available at: http://www.skincareguide.ca/articles/herpes/to_prevent_cold_sores.html. Accessed March 20, 2013.



Last reviewed March 2014 by David L. Horn, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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