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Cold Sores – Everything you need to know

Tuesday November 17, 2020
Cold Sores – Everything you need to know

They can leave the area around your mouth with a tingling sensation or itchy, and re-occur through episodes of stress, and weakened immunity. Fortunately, it is possible to manage cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. Read our guide on the causes, symptoms and practical self-help tips.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are caused by a virus known as herpes simplex. Once the virus is in your body this will stay in your skin for your entire life and in future, causing a cold sore. Cold sores are small fluid-filled blisters which appear mainly around the mouth and on the lips, they first appear as small red patches then develop into a blister1. They can be highly painful and include stabbing, burning and itching sensations which can cause discomfort2.

How common are cold sores?

It is estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 (67%) have herpes simplex virus type 1 also known as HSV-1. This type of herpes is transmitted by close contact and as a result causes ‘’cold sores’’1.

Are cold sores spread easily?

Cold sores are very contagious and can be spread from person to person through close contact. They can be spread through sharing creams, towels, cutlery, or makeup such as lipstick, with someone who has a cold sore.

Symptoms can also flare up through episodes of stress, hormonal fluctuation infection or weakened immunity2.

Can children and adults get cold sores?

Yes, both children and adults can get cold sores. These can occur at any age and once the virus is in the body this will remain in the body, certain things such as stress can trigger the virus and in turn will cause a cold sore.


Cold sores can be passed onto children by adults, this can be passed on through grandparents kissing their grandchildren. If a young baby is exposed to herpes virus this can be very harmful as their immune system will not have fully developed to fight off the virus2, this may cause neonatal herpes, a serious condition1.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms first occur as itchiness or tingling in a specific area on the face, mostly around the mouth. Blisters will occur which can leave a scab, it is important to keep the area moist to prevent cracking of the area which may delay the healing process. When cold sores reoccur, they are usually much milder than the first time1.

What can I do to prevent cold sores?

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and avoid taking anything which may trigger your cold sores.
  • Eat healthily to keep optimize your immune system.
  • Avoid stress – constant stress can weaken your body’s natural defenses. Make time for yourself, practice meditation or maintain social engagement with family and friends.
  • Take positive sleep management to help the body can recover and heal, as lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to develop a cold sore2.

Are there any other nutrients that can help?

Topical application of lemon balm has shown to exert an anti-viral effect in recent data. When applied four times daily, this treatment has shown to reduce spread of infection and had a rapid effect on typical symptoms.


Applying a balm enriched with lemon balm in combination with lysine supplement may help. Lysine is an amino acid found commonly in dairy foods. Administration of lysine has shown to reduce the severity of cold sore attacks and accelerate the healing time in herpes infections3.

Author: Rupinder Dhanjal is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc in Nutrition and Health.

Related articles:

 Benefits of Lemon Balm


 More on Immunity


1 World Health Organisation (2020) Herpes simplex virus, key facts [available from]

2 NHS (2020) Cold Sores. Conditions [available from] 

3 Singh B, Udani J, Vinjamury SP, et al (2005) Safety and effectiveness of an l-lysine, zinc, and herbal based product on the treatment of facial and circumoral herpes. Altern Med Rev 10(2) pg: 123-127 [available from]

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: NewsImmunity, Cold Sores, Lemon Balm Insights


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