Did you know that around 60 per cent of people between that ages of 14 and 19 are infected with the herpes simplex 1 virus, which causes cold sores?
This means that the majority of us have been exposed to the virus, even though not all of us go on to suffer from these small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth.
Sores often start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth, and then small fluid-filled sores appear, most commonly on the edges of your lower lip or in the corner.
But don't despair - there's plenty you can do to keep them at bay.
For a start, you can help prevent cold sores by avoiding foods that are rich in arginine. Foods including peas, wholegrain cereals and beer are all high in this amino acid, which allows the the herpes virus to thrive.
If it's cold and windy, cold sores can get dry and crack - and you don't need us to tell you that this is extremely painful. You can protect them from the elements by using petroleum jelly such as Vaseline.
Lemon balm tea, which has anti-viral properties, is also calming on cold sores. Prepare some, let it cool and apply some on a cotton wool ball.
Over the counter treatments
Cold sore creams are widely available over the counter from pharmacies such as Boots without a prescription. They are only effective if you apply them as soon as the first signs of a cold sore appear, when the herpes simplex virus is spreading and replicating. Using an antiviral cream after this initial period is unlikely to have much effect.
Other things to try include:
Boots Electronic Cold Sore Machine works by using an invisible narrow waveband of light to enhance the local immune response to the cold sore virus. The light treatment reduces the duration of the attack and speeds up the healing time.
Compeed Cold Sore Patch reduces risk of cross contamination associated with touching the sore. Once applied, the patch covers and seals the cold sore, and provides healing benefits at each stage of the cold sore outbreak: - Soothes burning and itching
Three things you need to know about cold sores
1. Cold sores are normally transmitted via the herpes simplex 1 virus, but in rare cases, they can also be caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), which can be the result of having oral sex with someone who has genital herpes.
2. The herpes simplex virus – or "cold sore virus" – is highly contagious and can be easily passed from person to person by close direct contact. After someone has contracted the virus, it remains dormant (inactive) for most of the time. However, every so often the virus can be activated by certain triggers, resulting in an outbreak of cold sores. These triggers vary from person to person, but can include fatigue, an injury to the affected area, and, in women, their period.
3. Some people have frequently recurring cold sores (around two or three times a year), while others have one cold sore and never have another. And some people never get cold sores at all because the virus never becomes active.