Cold sores are caused by a type of herpes virus (HSV-1, which most often is not sexually transmitted) so they're contagious from person to person. Once you get this virus it stays in your body, meaning you'll probably get cold sores every now and then throughout your life.
Here are ways you can help prevent cold sores from making an appearance (or reappearance if you've had them in the past).
--> Avoid getting cold sores in the first place by not sharing stuff like lip balm, toothbrushes, or drinks with other people who might have cold sores. The virus that causes cold sores is transmitted through the nose (in mucus) and the mouth (in saliva).
--> People who have the virus know that cold sores can flare up from things like too much sun, stress, or being sick. Just one more reason to lather on that suntan lotion, eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep!
If you do have a cold sore, here are some tips for keeping yourself comfortable:
--> Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the cold sores are painful.
--> Suck on ice pops or cubes to ease pain and keep cold sores cool.
--> Stay away from acidic foods (like oranges, tomatoes, and lemonade) and salty, spicy foods, which can cause irritation.
--> Don't pick at cold sores while you're waiting for them to go away. They may bleed or become infected with bacteria.
Usually, cold sores go away on their own after a week or 2. But if you get them frequently or they're a problem, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. He or she may be able to prescribe a medication to alleviate symptoms and shorten the amount of time cold sores last.