Why do I keep getting cold sores?

Recurring cold sores can have a number of causes

Dr. Jen Tan

30 August 2017

Why do I keep getting cold sores?

While many people can go years and years between cold sore outbreaks – and in fact, some people don’t even know they have the virus because it sometimes never causes an outbreak – others get the short end of the stick and suffer from constantly recurring cold sores.

For many, this can be embarrassing, not to mention painful!

There are a number cold sore triggers that may be at the root of your recurring problems – what are these, and how can you fix them?


Stress is one of the most common cold sore triggers! Stress affects our body in so many ways: reducing immune function, causing digestive complaints, preventing good sleep and even interfering with the reproductive system. 

As a result, stress can weaken the whole body and its defences, giving the cold sore virus the perfect opportunity to replicate and cause an outbreak.

Look at our stress management pages for some information on reducing your stress, or head to our page on stress and cold sores for some more information on how the two are linked.

Poor diet

A lack of nutritious food can severely impair the immune system and give HSV-1 the chance to get out of control. 

If your diet is missing fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein, and instead favours meat, dairy, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and alcohol, then this is likely the cause of your recurring cold sores.

Fill your diet with tasty nutritious foods, particularly focusing on brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, as well as foods rich in zinc. A multivitamin containing vitamin C and zinc may be a good idea at first. For some ideas of healthy meals to make, check out our recipe pages

If you are looking to improve your diet, remember that arginine-rich foods can trigger cold sore outbreaks.

Arginine-rich foods

Arginine is an amino acid that can help HSV-1 to replicate, so if your diet is full of arginine-rich foods then this could be triggering recurring outbreaks. 

Unfortunately, lots of arginine-rich foods are actually healthy foods that people often turn to when looking to improve their diet such as nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and spinach. It’s a shame that so many of these foods would be so good for your health otherwise!

However, arginine can also be found in a few unhealthy foods, such as chocolate, gelatin, cola and beer.

Hot, sunny weather

Hot weather is one that many people may not associate with cold sores. The truth is, however, that the lips are vulnerable to sunburn just like any other part of the body, and the hot weather will also dry them out and cause them to crack. This provides a haven for the cold sore virus!

If you’re out and about in hot, sunny weather, make sure to wear lip balm with SPF in it! Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as hot weather can quickly dehydrate you.

Cold, harsh weather

Yup, that’s right – both cold and hot weather can cause cold sores! Cold, windy weather is famous for drying out the skin, and it can have the same effect on the lips. 

Keep your lips protected in the winter by using a lip balm, and make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If you’re on a ski holiday or working a ski season, SPF lip balm is essential! Due to the thin atmosphere in the mountains the sun can be surprisingly strong, and the reflection off the snow doubles the effect. 

Menstrual cycle

This is really just one for the ladies. Do your recurring cold sores seem to appear at the same time every month? This could be linked to your menstrual cycle!

Menstruation puts a huge pressure on your body, due to the fluctuation of hormones and the sudden blood loss. You may find that your cold sores appear in the week before your period due to your fluctuating hormones – a bit like another unwelcome PMS symptom! You may instead find that your cold sores appear just after your period, as this is when your vitamin and mineral levels are likely to be lowest.

It is important to support your body through your menstrual cycle by eating lots of nutritious foods, reducing stress and drinking plenty of water. You may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement too, such as Magnesium OK, which contains vitamins D, E and C, a complex of B vitamins, as well as magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium and iodine. 

Reinfection from contaminated objects

After an outbreak of cold sores, it is vital that you throw out anything that has come into contact with your lips – such as lipstick, makeup brushes and your toothbrush. Any face cloths or hand towels that have come into contact with your cold sore should be thoroughly washed in a hot wash.

Your recurring cold sores could simply be a case of reinfection from these items.

How else can I prevent them?

Many people find that taking a daily Lysine supplement can help to keep cold sores at bay, as this amino acid can help to prevent the virus from replicating. In addition, a daily zinc supplement may be useful.

If you are really struggling to keep your cold sores under control, make an appointment with your GP to see if they can help. They may be able to prescribe an antiviral that can be taken daily to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak occurring.

And if you’ve already got a cold sore, clear it up with our own Bio-Propolis!

Echinacea is a traditional herb known to aid the body in its fight against colds and flu by supporting the immune system – but not all Echinacea is the same! Research shows that the fresher the herb, the more effective the remedy will be, which is why our Echinaforce cold and flu remedies are made using freshly harvested Echinacea.

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Bio Propolis - Cold sore treatment

Treatment containing propolis for use at any stage of the cold sore.
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Here’s what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Immune System expert, I recommend Bio-Propolis ointment to help soothe the symptoms associated with cold sores.

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