Can winter weather cause cold sore outbreaks?

Have you been getting more cold sores than usual since the winter season arrived? If so, you may be wondering if the increase in outbreaks has anything to do with the cold weather.

Does winter weather trigger cold sores?

Too much exposure to both extreme heat in the summer and cold weather in the winter can bring on cold sores. If you spend too much time in the hot sun, it can dry out your skin and cause an outbreak. If you spend too much time in the cold weather, the wind and bitter cold can also cause outbreaks.

There are three main reasons why cold sores are more likely to occur during the winter:

  1. The harshness of winter winds dries out the lips, making them more hospitable to the cold sore virus (HSV-1).
  2. The air from heaters is typically drier and warmer than the air that your face and lips are exposed to in the other seasons. Dry, hot air can encourage the virus to spread and lead to more frequent outbreaks.
  3. The reduced immunity that many people experience during the winter can make them more susceptible to cold sores.

What you can do about cold sores

While the herpes virus is always present in your body once you catch the virus, it is usually dormant. When your body is exposed to various types of stress, including the three factors listed above, the chance of the virus becoming active and resulting in a cold sore is much greater.

Whether from the sun, the wind or the bitter cold, once your lip cracks, it’s easy for the HSV-1 virus to attack. Using a lip balm regularly will keep your lips moist and prevent damage to your lips, helping to ward off outbreaks near your mouth. Avoid going outside in harsh winter weather, if possible. If you do need to brave the cold, cover the lower part of your face with a heavy scarf and apply lip balm regularly.

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