Many of our readers have requested that we write about oral herpes through our “Suggest a Topic” box! Today we investigate ways to prevent oral herpes outbreaks.
Oral herpes is not usually considered a serious condition; however, the sores resulting from a herpes outbreak can cause self-consciousness as well as physical pain. Read on for facts about oral herpes, and ways to prevent oral herpes outbreaks.
Oral Herpes Facts
Oral herpes, also known as herpes labialis, is an infection most commonly caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). It can cause painful blisters on the lips, mouth or gums. These blisters can last days or weeks and are also known as cold sores and fever blisters. When you have herpes blisters, you are having what is known as an outbreak. Some people experience oral herpes outbreaks a couple times a year. A small percentage of people experience frequent outbreaks.
HSV-1 is spread through saliva, and people can become infected by kissing someone already infected or by sharing silverware and personal items with someone who is already infected.
Ways to Prevent Oral Herpes Outbreaks
No one knows exactly what causes an oral herpes outbreak, though it is believed that a variety of factors, called triggers, are involved. Triggers include injury, sunlight, menstruation, illness or weakened immune systems and stress. While there is no 100% foolproof way to avoid oral herpes outbreaks, there are some steps you can take to decrease the frequency and severity of your outbreaks.
- Record when you have a herpes outbreak: By recording when cold sores appear, you may be able to pinpoint factors that may be triggering your cold sores.
- Manage your stress: There is no evidence that stress causes herpes blisters to develop; however, some people report that herpes blisters, or “cold sores” do tend to crop up when they’re stressed. Try to find new ways to cope with stress.
- Follow a healthy diet: While oral herpes outbreaks are not entirely understood, it is believed that the virus reactivates when the immune system is weakened. Help your body by ensuring it has everything it needs. Follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Put on sunscreen: The ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight can negatively affect some types of immune cells, perhaps leading to an oral herpes outbreak. Make sure to put on sunscreen and lip balm with SPF before spending time in the sun! Avoid Vaseline, which attracts the sun.
- Lysine: Studies suggest that the dietary supplement lysine may help prevent oral herpes outbreaks and shorten the duration of outbreaks. You can get more lysine in your diet by taking supplements or by eating more foods that are rich in lysine such as potatoes, eggs, chicken and fish. Lysine might raise cholesterol levels or interact negatively with other medications, so talk to your doctor before you start taking the dietary supplement.
- Avoid certain foods: Many people believe that consuming the amino acid arginine can trigger a herpes outbreak. There is no clinical evidence to support this theory; however, some people avoid arginine-rich foods, including: red meat, eggs, nuts, soy, spinach and whole grains.
- Talk to your doctor: Perhaps the best way to avoid oral herpes outbreaks is to talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe you medications called antivirals that can help prevent breakouts. These medications are most effective when taken as soon as first symptoms of an outbreak appear, when the affected area is tingly and sensitive but no sore has yet appeared. Examples include acyclovir (Zovirax®), valacyclovir (Valtrex®) and famciclovir (Famvir®). If you have six or more outbreaks a year, talk to your doctor about the possibility of maintenance suppression therapy with antivirals.
To find out more about oral herpes and medications used to treat it, visit www.iTriageHealth.com.
What do you do to prevent oral herpes breakouts? What works and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments below!