Cold sores are caused by a member of the herpes virus family, called herpes simplex.
They occur on the lip, or just above or below it, and are caught through close contact (for example, kissing) with someone who has a cold sore. You can¬ít catch cold sores from cups, flannels or towels.
Infection usually occurs in childhood when someone¬ís kissed by a family member who has a cold sore. The virus passes through the skin, travels up a nerve and hides in the nerve root until it¬ís activated. When the virus is activated, it travels back to the skin, causing a tingling sensation.
When the sore appears, it¬ís itchy, painful and embarrassing because it¬ís so noticeable. After the first attack, some people never have another one; others get them occasionally, while some get them quite often.
Many things trigger attacks: colds and flu, menstrual periods, emotional upset, fatigue, bright sunlight and cold winds.
Preventing recurrences involves avoiding those things known to trigger cold sores. So, make sure you always wear a lip balm containing UV protection and avoid sources of stress. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that¬ís rich in vitamins A, C and E, zinc and iron is also important to keep the immune system strong.
Make sure you get enough garlic, too; it has antiviral properties and can be taken fresh or in capsule form. The herb melissa, or lemon balm, is another good preventative. Make an infusion with some dried Melissa leaves in boiling water, leave to cool, strain and store in a bottle. Apply it daily to the lips with cotton wool.