To understand what triggers a cold sore or fever blister you must understand what a cold sore is and how cold sores spread. The herpes virus can lie dormant inside the nervous system for days, months, or even years before an outbreak occurs. Although it is unknown what triggers latent virus to activate, several conditions seem to trigger outbreaks, which include stress, illness, tiredness, exposure to sunlight, heat or cold, menstruation, fever, and extreme changes in diet. However, keep in mind that not everyone’s cold sore is triggered by the same thing even though there are common factors that may cause your cold sore outbreak.
Common Cold Sore Triggers
- Fatigue. No sleep or being tired can open the door for new cold sores and fever blisters because a fatigued body creates stress.
- Stress. A stressed body releases cortisol (fight-or-flight stress chemical) which weakens the immune system.
- Weakened Immune System. A weak immune system means less lymphocytes to defend against the herpes simplex virus.
- Cold Weather. Low temperatures commonly dry out lips because the colder the air, the less water it can hold before the water condenses. Dry lips are a known trigger of cold sores and fever blisters.
- Extreme Sunlight. Similar to cold weather, sunlight is a proven trigger of cold sores. As you would protect your body’s skin with lotion protect your lips with lip balm.
- Hormonal Change. The hormones present in your body during certain times in the menstrual cycle, as well as during pregnancy, can trigger an outbreak.
- Dental Trauma & Visits. Typically the trauma of a dentist procedure triggers a cold sore however because HSV-1 is spread so easily, a dental office can be a breeding ground for it if the right preventative steps aren’t taken.
- Extreme Changes in Diet. Disruptions in routine diets, and especially those resulting in increased consumption of highly acidic foods has been known to increase the frequency of outbreaks.
How to Avoid Cold Sore Triggers
- Improve your sleep to increase energy levels.
- Reduce your stress with mental and physical relaxation.
- Boost your immune system.
- Prepare yourself for weather changes.
- Identify when your hormones fluctuate.
- Know how to prepare for dental visits.
- Avoid highly acidic food intakes.