December 01, 2018

Cold sores

A lifelong virus

Selling the family home and downsizing has brought about considerable stress in recent months. And that stress brought about a side effect you weren't expecting — a few cold sore flare-ups. After years with no problems, these lingering sores are frustrating. Is there anything you can do?

Trigger alert

A cold sore is a small, fluid-filled blister — or more often, a group of blisters — that typically develops on or around the lips. These blisters quickly dry out and form a scab. A day or two before an outbreak occurs, you may experience a burning, itching or tingling sensation on the area of skin where the sore will eventually appear.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is typically passed from skin-to-skin contact. Once you're exposed to the virus, it's present in your body for life. After the initial infection, the virus will travel to your nerves, where it remains dormant but may awaken periodically. Often, there's a trigger that causes the virus to wake up, which leads to the development of cold sores. Common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Illness, such as a cold or influenza
  • Exposure to sunlight, wind or other elements
  • A cut or other injury to the skin
  • Changes in the immune system
  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with menstruation

Finding relief

Most cold sores will heal on their own within a couple of weeks. If the discomfort bothers...