Cold Sores 2 min read

Treating cold sores in the summer months

Treating cold sores in the summer months Treating cold sores in the summer months Treating cold sores in the summer months

For some, winter is the time when you’re most likely to suffer from cold sores. Cold sores can be triggered by exposure to cold air, and the chilly winter wind can dry out and crack lips, creating the perfect conditions for cold sores to appear. However, cold sores affect people in different ways, and while cold and wintry conditions can cause cold sores, they are far from exclusively a winter thing.

If you suffer from cold sores in the summer, you’ll know just how frustrating this can be. Developing a cold sore on a summer holiday can spoil the fun, and you feel much more exposed when you’re out and about during the warmer months with a painful outbreak on your lips. So, just what is it about the summer that causes cold sores? To understand how summer conditions affect cold sores, it’s worth understanding a little more about what causes them in the first place.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are small groups or clusters of blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus is categorised into two types:
1. HSV-1
2. HSV-2
Cold sores are caused by HSV-1. Once inside the body, HSV-1 will generally remain inactive until stimulated or triggered into action by certain conditions. When this happens, you start to feel that unpleasant tingling sensation around the lips or mouth that results in a cold sore. About 1 in 5 people in the UK have recurring cold sores and the virus is easily passed from person to person.

Once infected, there is no cure, so you’re stuck with it for life. However, it can remain dormant for long periods, and once you work out what triggers your outbreaks, it is easier to avoid developing cold sores.

Does the sun trigger cold sores?

The triggers for cold sores are very individual and vary from person to person. However, there are some common causes in the summer months that are often responsible for outbreaks.

These can include overexposure to sunlight or UV rays, which can impact the immune system and trigger a cold sore. The dry weather in the summer can also cause skin and lips to dry out and crack; damaged skin is a significant trigger for cold sores.

The use of oily skin products such as sun cream, although essential in the summer, can lead to blocked pores which can also be a significant cause, as can eating acidic foods such as citrus fruits and salads.

However, not all triggers for cold sores are external. Some are internal, such as stress or fatigue. So, looking after the kids during school holidays, travelling, or just too many late nights can be a trigger. Hormonal imbalances, weakened immune systems, or other general illnesses can also cause cold sores.

How to prevent cold sores in warmer months

As we know, cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus, which, once infected, will be with us for life – no matter what we do. As such, there’s no cure for cold sores. But that’s not to say we’re always at the mercy of these painful outbreaks. The first thing to do is to try and avoid any personal triggers, be that excess sunlight, dry lips or stress. Prevention is always better than cure.

How to look after cold sores in the sun

Various treatments and remedies can help reduce the chances of a cold sore developing, as well as things you do to limit the discomfort and inconvenience of an outbreak if it does happen during the summer.

Cold compresses
Once you start to feel the familiar tingling of a cold sore starting to develop, then you can begin applying a cold, damp cloth to the affected area. This will help reduce the redness and swelling, prevent crusting, and lead to quicker recovery. However, you should never apply ice directly to the cold sore; always wrap it in a towel first.

Pain medication
One of the worst things about cold sores is how painful they can be. Using pain relieving medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help to take the sting out of a cold sore. Always be sure to read the label and follow dosage advice.

Cold sore patches
As well as generic pain medication, there are various over-the-counter treatments specially designed to help combat cold sores. COMPEED cold sore discreet healing patches contain hydrocolloid active gel that helps to prevent scabbing and promote faster healing. Compeed patches can also be worn in the sun to prevent flare-ups from worsening.

Prescription medication
If your summer cold sores are causing you trouble, won’t clear up with treatment, or you’re in more pain than usual, then make an appointment with your GP, who may be able to prescribe medication to help you.

Cold sores generally clear up within a week or two, and sometimes faster if you treat them correctly with a COMPEED cold sore patch. Again, if a cold sore has not cleared up within this time frame and is still painful or not healing, it is a good idea to have it checked by a medical professional.

Does the heat make the cold sores more contagious?

Cold sores are no more or less contagious in the summer than any other time of year. However, you may be more likely to socialise when the weather is good than when it’s cold and wet in the winter. Cold sores can be contagious, especially when they rupture, so you need to keep this in mind.

The summer should be a time of outdoor fun, holidays and long lazy evenings. So, the last thing you need is a cold sore outbreak causing pain and discomfort. However, you can reduce the risk of cold sores by taking a few preventive measures, such as avoiding too much sun exposure, choosing a less oily sun cream, or avoiding dry skin. Remember that even cloudy days in the summer can put you at risk of UV exposure or dry and cracked lips. UV can penetrate even thick layers of cloud and can still be a potential trigger even when you don’t expect it.

If a cold sore starts to appear, act quickly and treat the affected area with cold compresses and COMPEED cold sore patch to help allieviate any symptoms.