Mayo Clinic: My husband frequently gets cold sores. Most of
the time, it seems they are due to stress. Weíve been
together for two years. Iíve never had cold sores, and Iíd
like to avoid ever getting them. I always assumed we should
just avoid kissing until the cold sore is gone, but I recently
heard that even touching can spread the virus as long as itís
visible. Is this true? Also, are there things he can do to
keep from getting cold sores so often?
virus that causes cold sores usually is spread to other people
through saliva. So, your inclination to avoid kissing while
your husband has a cold sore is a wise move. But, itís also
true that some active virus is present at the site of a cold
sore. That means any direct contact with the sore could spread
the virus. There are a number of steps your husband can take
to reduce the chance of spreading the virus that causes the
sores and lower his risk for developing cold sores frequently.
sores are tiny, fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips.
The blisters often are grouped together. After the blisters
break, a crust forms over the resulting sore. Cold sores
typically heal within one week without leaving a scar.
medical term for cold sores is herpes simplex labialis. You
also may hear them referred to as fever blisters. The sores
usually are caused by a herpes simplex virus, HSV-1. Most
people who get this virus are first infected during childhood,
and the initial infection typically produces few symptoms.
HSV-1 is in a personís body, however, it doesnít go away.
Instead, it remains dormant in the nerve cells of the skin.
Over time, the virus can reactivate and cause other cold sores
to appear. Cold sores that come back in otherwise healthy
people are thought to be triggered by stress, fatigue and
the virus from spreading, your husband should be careful to
avoid kissing and other skin-to-skin contact with you and with
anyone else while he has a cold sore. He also should keep his
personal items, such as towels and lip balm, separate from
other people in your household during the time he has a sore.
Do not share utensils, cups or other dishes either.
your husbandís situation, stress is a common trigger for
recurrent cold sores. Sunshine exposure also may lead to cold
sores in many people who have had them before. Regularly using
a lip balm with a broad-spectrum sunscreen may help reduce his
number of cold sore outbreaks.
sores generally clear up on their own without medical
treatment. But, if your husband continues to get them
regularly, he may want to talk with his doctor about
medications that are available for cold sores. Several kinds
of prescription oral medication can be used to speed the
healing of cold sores. They donít have an effect on the
transmission of the virus to other people, though. For
individuals who often develop cold sores, or for those at risk
of serious complications from the sores, a daily dose of an
antiviral medication may be useful to help prevent frequent