How to Prevent Cold Sores


Cold sores can be unsightly, and can leave parents wondering what they can do to prevent them. Erin Kofman, an independent pharmacist from Toronto, understands how difficult this can be. ‘Kids are germy, so it can be challenging. Between runny noses and kids touching other kids, it’s important to wash hands.’ Other tips Kofman suggested for preventing cold sores include:

  • Sneeze into your arm, not in your hands.
  • Don’t share utensils. Label them to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Don’t kiss someone when you have an active cold sore.
  • Practice good hygiene.

Cold sore triggers are as individual as the people who have them. Triggers can include stress, low immunity from a virus or cold, hormonal changes, trauma to the area from things like dental work, and exposure to sunlight. Even spicy food can create a stress reaction that can, in some cases, lead to a cold sore.

The best way to prevent a cold sore is to protect your immunity. It’s possible to stay healthy by getting lots of sleep, eating well, exercising, decreasing stress, and washing your hands frequently.

About 90% of people come into contact with HSV1 (the virus that causes cold sores) during their childhood. Of those, 20-40% will develop cold sores in adulthood. They can be successfully managed if you know your triggers and practice proper infection control.

It’s important to keep in mind that until a cold sore heals, the patient is contagious. One of the treatments Kofman recommends is Abreva. She recommends using it at the first sign of a cold sore, during the initial tingling, burning, or that first red dot. Applying five times a day for ten days can shorten the duration. Abreva contains docosanol, which stops the virus from entering healthy cells. It’s not recommended for kids under 12, so you should ask your doctor about alternative treatment options for your child.

For kids who are too young for treatment, pain medication like Tylenol and Advil may control discomfort, but will not treat the cold sore itself. Ice is also useful for temporary relief. If a cold sore lasts longer than ten days, it’s best to seek medical attention, as there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed.

While cold sores are common, the good news is there are a lot of ways to protect your family’s immunity and keep the discomfort at bay. With rest, nourishing foods, good hygiene and effective stress management, families can easily stay healthy and happy.



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