Cold Sores

Cold sores are a condition caused by recurrent herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection and usually occur on and around the lips.


Prodromal (Preliminary) Phase

Localised tingling, burning, pain, or itching for 2-24 hours prior to lesions appearing.

Main Phase

A small cluster of fluid filled blisters then develop, which can burst and weep. Burst blisters can form a hard scab that can be itchy and painful.

Severity of the condition varies between individuals and outbreaks, however they usually last between 7-10 days after initial lesions appear.

Lesions may become infected and appear honey-coloured with crusting and weeping. This may be accompanied by symptoms of infection such as fever and swollen lymph glands.

First episodes of cold sores tend to arise in children aged 1-5 years. These initial episodes can present without symptoms or as numerous small and painful mouth ulcers accompanied by red and swollen gums, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.

When to see a medical practitioner

Visitation of a medical practitioner may be necessary when:

  • Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks
  • Lesions appear infected
  • There are systemic symptoms such as fever and malaise
  • Episodes occur more than three times in a year
  • Lesions appear on other parts of the body (e.g. arm, legs, buttocks, genitalia)


Cold sores may occur spontaneously or through triggers such as:

  • Trauma
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Infection
  • Sunlight
  • Menstruation
  • High arginine and/or low lysine diets
  • Immunosuppression



HSV is transmitted through physical contact with the lesions or fluid released by the lesion.

Avoidance of contact with people who have cold sores, (especially avoid sharing drink bottles and utensils) including oral sex assists to prevent transmission.

Ethical Nutrients Lysine Cold Sore Defence or Bioceuticals ViroGuard contains lysine and zinc which helps to reduce viral replication, boost immunity, and recurrent episodes.

Avoidance of arginine rich foods such as grains, chocolate, coconut, nuts, and brown rice can also help reduce the incidence of recurring episodes.  Additionally, increasing intake of lysine rich foods such as most fruits and vegetables, proteins and brewer’s yeast can also reduce severity and incidence of cold sore episodes.

General hygiene such as washing hands and items that have been in contact with a person who has cold sores reduces the likelihood of transmission.

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