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Secret Remedies to Stop a Cold Sore Before It Starts

By Beverly Bird ; Updated August 14, 2017

Almost everyone has contracted herpes simplex virus type 1 by adulthood, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website MedLine Plus. HSV-1 causes cold sores. It is generally transferred by kissing or coming into close contact with someone who has an active outbreak. Colgate’s World of Care indicates that after primary infection, the virus will remain with you for life and any number of triggers can cause an outbreak. Stopping cold sores before they start is about identifying your triggers and taking preventative action before they occur. It also helps to turn your home into a place that's inhospitable to the virus.


Sunshine can be a cold sore trigger for many people. Staying inside and drawing the blinds is not necessary, but get into the habit of keeping sunscreen with you. When you are outside on a bright day, coat your lips with a thin layer. Colgate indicates that there is evidence that this can prevent an outbreak before it happens. Dr. Dan Peterson of Family Gentle Dental Care in Nebraska suggests products with a sun block factor of at least 15.

Lip Balm

Colgate reports that wind and other dry weather conditions can prompt outbreaks of cold sores as well. If you’re outdoors for an extended period of time on a windy day, or if you live in an arid locale, use lip balm generously to keep your lips moist and prevent an occurrence.


Arginine, an amino acid, is herpes-friendly, according to Peterson. Tests have shown that the virus feeds on it, so it can cause outbreaks, too. Lysine is an amino acid that is antagonistic to HSV-1. There is some evidence that eating a diet low in arginine and high in lysine can stop cold sore outbreaks from happening. Foods that are rich in lysine include milk, fish, meat and legumes. Some foods that are high in arginine are chocolate and nuts, particularly peanuts and almonds. Avoid them, and take lysine supplements if necessary to help your diet fight cold sores before they occur.

Antiviral Medications

There are a number of antiviral medications available that can stop cold sores before they start. The trick is to take them before the outbreak occurs because once you feel that tingling sensation telling you that one is on its way, it is too late. Taken after an outbreak begins, these medications can only shorten your ordeal by a day or so, at best. But if you know your trigger and can take an antiviral medication before it happens, you can reduce the chance of a flare-up. Peterson says that 60 percent of his patients have identified stress as a cold sore trigger, so medication might help when you know you are facing a stressful situation. If cold sores are a real problem for you, see your physician and find out if a prescription for your outbreaks is appropriate.

Your Home

If all else fails and you do have an outbreak, take measures not to invite the virus back again. Get rid of items that came in contact with your lips during an outbreak, or sanitize them. Peterson says that you should replace the toothbrush you’ve used during a flare-up and shave with a disposable razor so you can throw that out, too. MedLine Plus recommends washing towels, pillowcases and bedding, in boiling water if possible, to kill the virus.

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