Keep out of wind as much as possible. If you ride a bike, wrap a scarf around the lower part of your face.

Use sunblock if you find sunshine provokes an attack. This really can work. Choose a high-factor sunblock (such as those intended for skiers) and apply it to the area where your cold sores occur. Do not just dab on the exact spot – cover the surrounding skin also, because cold sores do not always recur in exactly the same spot. If you tend to get sores on the actual lip, use a lip balm that contains UV protection.

Do not waste money on special supplements. Some people think that taking a supplement of L-lysine (an amino acid) will prevent cold sores or will help your cold sore heal rapidly. There is no scientific evidence that this works.

Eat healthily and do not exclude foods from your diet. Some people think that avoiding foods that are high in arginine (an amino acid) or low in L-lysine will help to prevent attacks. Therefore, they avoid wholegrains, nuts, onions, green vegetables, coconut and chocolate. The problem is that all these foods form part of a healthy diet (yes, even chocolate), and there is no scientific evidence that cutting them out has any effect on herpes.

It makes sense to keep generally healthy, and this means eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and iron-containing foods. Although there is no scientific evidence for its benefits, there would be no harm in trying a diet that is high in L-lysine. Such foods include yoghurt, apples, pears, mangoes, tomatoes, beetroot, chicken and oily fish.

‘Avoid stress’ is a common piece of advice to cold sore sufferers. It is true that cold sores do tend to occur when people are run-down or stressed, but avoiding stress is more easily said than done.

See your doctor if you are having really bad or frequent attacks, or if you also have eczema or other health problems. Your doctor might consider prescribing an antiviral drug in tablet form as a preventive measure or giving you a supply of tablets to take at the first sign of another attack.


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Anna Cantlay
Last updated: October 2020

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