HSV-1: The Culprit behind Cold Sores

HSV-1 is a fairly common occurrence, you find yourself with fever or some other common ailment like a sore throat, and a few days later a sore has erupted around your mouth area.

You don’t know how you got it, and you probably never will, but don’t worry.

It’s not something that will be staying on for long, and so long as the proper care and management is done, you will be able to ride out the infection relatively unscathed.

So what causes HSV-1? What can you do to prevent transmitting the infection to others?

Most importantly, what can you do to treat cold sores and avoid recurrent outbreaks? Read on to find out!

What is HSV-1?

HSV 1, or Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, is one of the two types of Herpes viruses that are able to cause infection in humans. While both types are considered as contagious and ubiquitous, HSV 1 is the more common type of herpes; having infected most of the US population by the time they reach their majority.

hsv 1

How did I get HSV 1? 

HSV-1 is transmitted by direct contact with an active sore, by sharing personal effects like towels or razors, through kissing, and through mouth-to-genital contact (oral sex).

Is it possible to spread HSV 1 even without the sores?

Yes, unfortunately some people who have the infection are asymptomatic, which means that even when they do have the infection, they will not show any sign or symptom of the infection.

Can HSV 1 manifest in other parts of the body?

Cold sores are not confined in the mouth area alone. In fact, it can spread through the entire body. You can have cold sores anywhere from your face to your feet. However, the lesions caused by HSV-1 occur on the face most of the time.

I’ve already had the infection once. I should be safe, right?

Unlike other viruses where you get lifetime immunity after one single infection, herpes has no such guarantee. In fact, a single infection with HSV-1 is enough to cause recurrent outbreaks. In a herpes infection, be it type 1 or type 2, the virus will stay with you for life. Unfortunately, there are no known methods as yet that will be able to totally eradicate the virus.

Is the next outbreak predictable?

No. There is no way to be able to predict when your next outbreak will be. What you can do is to be conscious of the things that could cause an outbreak and refrain from doing them (e.g. prolonged sun exposure, stress, unhealthy lifestyle, etc). This way, although you will not be able to predict when the next possible outbreak will be, you’re sure to be able to marginally minimize the chances of the outbreak happening.

What HSV-1 reactivation triggers should I be aware of?

There are numerous triggers that can reactivate an HSV-1 infection. Here are a few of them that you might want to take note and avoid to minimize the number of outbreaks that you have.

  1. Stress. It seems that the number 1 factor that precipitates the appearance of cold sores is stress. It can be anything from a stressful relationship, a stressful job, being in a stressful environment, to even stressing out your body due to smoking and late night partying-- all these can contribute to a herpes outbreak.
  2. Overexposure to the elements. An outbreak can also be facilitated by exposure to heat, cold, the wind and other elements, that may create a rather stressful environment in the body, and could eventually trigger the dormant virus by increasing the chances of herpes infection reactivation.
  3. Diet. Some people have reported that eating certain foods can increase the chances of herpes reactivation. Although the list is not absolute and can differ from person to person, a few of the reported foodstuffs that can increase the likelihood of herpes reactivation include the following: alcohol, chocolate, nuts, coffee, and popcorn.
  4. Suppressed Immune System. When you’re sick, chances are the virus will try to take advantage of a weakened immune system and cause an outbreak.
  5. Skin irritation. Several studies have already supported that frequent rubbing and friction of a sore, in some ways either aggravate a case of herpes outbreak, or cause a reactivation.

Keep in mind that these triggers vary from person to person. So listen to your body.

What can cause a case of herpes reactivation to one person cannot be true for everyone, so be sure to note what instances can cause your infection to reactivate and try to avoid them in the future.

So what can I do now that I have HSV 1?

There may be no cure yet for HSV-1 but there are ways to keep the virus from spreading. Here are some simple steps to steer clear of recurrent outbreaks:

  1. Always wash your hands after touching an active cold sore. Touching other parts of your body after contact with an outbreak can easily spread the virus.
  2. Take care to avoid sharing your face towels, utensils, and toothbrushes. Wash them in hot soapy water to deactivate the herpes virus.
  3. Avoid kissing or giving oral sex when you have an outbreak. Even without a visible sore, always be safe and use protection like a dental dam or condom when being intimate.
  4. Join support groups to get more information. Sharing and talking with people in the same condition lessens the feeling of isolation and loneliness attached to the herpes virus. You'll soon find out that herpes is a pretty common infection and that people with HSV 1 still go on dating, loving, and living life to the fullest.

Keep a positive outlook. Some people infected with herpes have reported being outbreak-free for 20 years!

So with the proper care and health management, there's a definite chance you can achieve that feat too!

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