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Preventing another attack of cold sores

Keep out of wind as much as possible. If you ride a bike, wrap a scarf around the lower part of your face.

Use sunblock if you find sunshine provokes an attack. This really can work. Researchers tried it out on 38 people who suffered from recurrent cold sores and it stopped the problem. Then they supplied a fake sunscreen, and 71% of the people developed a cold sore. (This research was published in the The Lancet in 1991.)
Choose a high-factor sunblock (such as those intended for skiers), and apply it to the area where your cold sores occur. Do not just dab on the exact spot – cover the surrounding skin also, because cold sores do not always recur in exactly the same spot. If you tend to get sores on the actual lip, use a lip balm that contains UV protection.
Do not waste money on special supplements. Some people think that taking a supplement of L-lysine (an amino acid) will prevent cold sores, or will help your cold sore heal rapidly. There is no scientific evidence that this works.
Eat healthily and do not exclude foods from your diet. Some people think that avoiding foods that are high in arginine (an amino acid) or low in L-lysine will help to prevent attacks. Therefore they avoid wholegrains, nuts, onions, green vegetables, coconut and chocolate. The problem is that all these foods form part of a healthy diet (yes, even chocolate), and there is no scientific evidence that cutting them out has any effect on herpes.
It makes sense to keep generally healthy, and this means eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and iron-containing foods. Although there is no scientific evidence for its benefits, there would be no harm in trying a diet that is high in L-lysine. Such foods include yoghurt, apples, pears, mangoes, tomatoes, beetroot, chicken and oily fish.
‘Avoid stress’ is a common piece of advice to cold sore sufferers. It is true that cold sores do tend to occur when people are run-down or stressed, but avoiding stress is more easily said than done.
See your doctor if you are having really bad or frequent attacks, or if you also have eczema or other health problems. Your doctor might consider prescribing an antiviral drug in tablet form as a preventive measure, or giving you a supply of tablets to take at the first sign of another attack.

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Saturday, February 13th 2010


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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 27/10/2012 at 04:38

L-lysine works well for me. Also try Red Marine Algae with the L-lysine. I found a hugh improvement when combined. Apple skins will always trigger my attacks so I avoid anything with apple juice in it. Find the trigger via watching your food intake and you can solve most of your attacks by avoiding the foods that cause an outbreak. Stress will bring them on also.

Posted by Ali on 11/10/2009 at 05:32

I have suffered from regular cold sores all my life, in my teens they were every 3 months! Now I'm in my late twenties and they only seem to appear when I'm tired, run down or stressed. I have tried taking Lysine every day for months but it didn't make any difference for me. I have tried all the various ointments and as long as they have 5% loperamide they haven't varied much in their healing. The BEST way to prevent a cold sore from surfacing I have found is when you feel the tingle to bathe it in hot salty water (it will sting a little at first) for as long as you can and for me that means it doesn't usually come up. I've also found putting tootpaste on the area works too! Sorry for the long post, but I have tried so many things! Also taking vitamin c tablets apparently helps prevent them too. Hope this is useful for some sufferers. Ali

Posted by Robert Smith on 24/05/2009 at 12:31

I am 73 years of age and have never suffered from cold sores - until now. I am wondering if it can be connected to 'hay fever' (which until now I have also never suffered with) but for over 1 week I have been sneezing, my eyes are heavy and watering and I am excessively tired all of the time. However I do not have a fever. Can anyone please comment. Robert Smith

Posted by me on 23/04/2009 at 03:22

Lysine works.....

Posted by nicky on 02/03/2009 at 09:19

I have suffered for years with coldsores and this is first time I have read about it. Makes interesting reading I use Zovirax and after trying every lotion,potion and pill on the planet this one works for me, still have them for about 10 days though. I think we are stuck with them guys.

Posted by anna on 28/02/2009 at 05:01

but studies DO show that lysine helps. Is this article old?

Posted by Sarah on 16/02/2009 at 11:05

I suffer from really bad coldsaws and have used every cream possible but nothing seems to work anybodi have any ideas what i should do

Posted by Anonymous on 29/12/2008 at 02:37

When I get that tingle around my lips, I take 500 mg of L-lysine every 4 hours when I'm awake for about 1-2 days. I have found that the cold sores usually subside and do NOT show up on my lips. This is MY experience. Your results may vary. So, I take exception to the paragraph "Do not waste money on special supplements." above. The supplement, L-lysine works for me.


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