Herpes Home > Cold Sore Prevention

You can do many things to help prevent getting a cold sore. Strategies for those who do not have cold sores include avoiding contact with an infected individual, including oral sex. If you have a cold sore, the same things can be avoided to prevent spreading the virus. Knowing and controlling your triggers are an important step in keeping cold sores from recurring.

Cold Sore Prevention: An Overview

For thousands of years, cold sores have been common in society. This is no different today. In fact, it is thought that just within the United States, up to 80 percent of children and adults have had at least one cold sore during their lifetime.
 
With so many people having cold sores, prevention can be difficult. Compound this with the fact that most people become infected with the virus before they are 10 years old, and you can see why the virus that causes cold sores continues to spread year after year (see Cold Sore Causes).
 
However, there are some things that you can do to protect yourself from getting cold sores. If you have had a cold sore, there are things that you can do to help prevent a recurrence or avoid spreading the virus to uninfected people.
 

Strategies for Preventing Cold Sores

For a person without cold sores, there are things you can do to protect yourself. These prevention strategies include the following:
 
  • Avoid skin-to-skin or mucous membrane contact with a person who has an active cold sore
  • Avoid sharing items that may have come in contact with a cold sore
  • Avoid oral sex from a person with an active sore.
     
Avoid Contact
The herpes simplex virus (the virus that causes cold sores) is spread by direct skin-to-skin or mucous membrane contact. It is highly contagious when cold sores are present. While the virus is frequently spread by kissing, it may also be spread by sharing things such as utensils, napkins, drinks, toothbrushes, towels, or razors that have come in contact with a cold sore.
 
Children often become infected through contact with parents, siblings, or other close relatives who have cold sores. A child can spread the virus by rubbing his or her cold sore and then touching other children.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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