What Causes Cold Sores? Copyright 2005
What causes cold sores? An excellent
question with a not-so-simple answer.
You see – what causes cold sores for one
person may not be what causes cold sores
for another. But, hopefully, by the time
you’re done reading this article you should
know exactly what causes cold sores for
First, there is one thing ALL cold sore
victims do have in common. The one basic
answer as to what causes cold sores in
everyone is the infection of a herpes
There are 8 known human herpes viruses,
only two of which causes cold sores. Herpes
simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2
(HSV-2). Type 1 causes about 80% of cold
sores and is considered the main cold sore
virus. Type 2 is primarily responsible for
genital herpes outbreaks but causes about
20% of the cold sores.
Most of the time, the cold sores virus is
latent (asleep) far back in the nerve
“ganglia” – the area near the back of the
jaw where the facial nerves connect with
each other and the secondary nervous
When emotional or physical stress causes
the virus to wake up and become active,
they travel to the surface through the
nerves. At the surface they enter the
cells, force the cells to create copies of
themselves, and then destroy the cells to
release the newly created viruses. This
replication process “explodes” many
thousands of cells in a close area that
merge and causes your unsightly monster
This is the root of what causes cold sores
But not everyone infected with the cold
sore virus gets cold sores.
According to the World Health Organization
between 85% and 91% of the people on this
planet are infected with this highly
contagious virus. Of those, 33% will never
get a single cold sore in their lifetime.
The other 67% will get at least one, and
most often 2 or more cold sores per year.
What causes cold sores to occur in some of
us and not others – assuming we’re all
carrying the same virus? What actually
activates these sleeping viruses?
Your level of health, how you handle
stress, and the foods you eat all come into
play here. What causes cold sores for you?
Let’s take a look.
1. YOUR HEALTH. Simply put, the stronger
your health, the stronger your immune
system. The stronger your body’s defense
system the less likely your herpes virus
will wake up and produce another cold sore.
If you get cold sores frequently, then you
really need to upgrade your health level.
Vibrant health is a huge topic about which
many books have been written. But you know
the basics. Quality nutrient-dense foods
such as fresh organic vegetables, low
impact exercise, no smoking, limited
alcohol consumption, and sleep. Also,
today, it’s very wise – no matter how good
your diet – to take a GOOD vitamin
supplement – one that contains a large
quantity of B vitamins (considered the
anti-stress vitamins) and anti-oxidants to
supercharge your immune system.
2. YOUR STRESS. This includes both physical
and mental stress. Keep in mind that mental
stress always affects us physically too.
Stress is blamed as the No. 1 cause of cold
sore outbreaks. Because the herpes virus
lives in the nervous system cells, it’s
very sensitive to stress changes. You can’t
avoid all stress in your life, but keeping
a high level of health will help you cope
with the physical aspects of stress.
Some of the main stress events that studies
show wake up the cold sore virus are
illnesses such as colds (thus the term
“cold sores”) and fevers (thus the term
“fever blisters”). Also physical injuries,
dental work, pregnancy, allergies,
environmental toxins, medications, or an
upcoming event like a wedding or funeral
causes cold sores. Weddings are
particularly bad for cold sores – if the
ton of mail I get are any indication.
3. YOUR DIET. Besides a good diet to
improve your general health, take a look at
these two amino acids (protein fractions) –
lysine and arginine.
Studies have shown that lysine is very much
anti-herpes. Lysine not only helps keep the
virus latent, but also, if already active,
will encourage the virus to go back into
hibernation. Foods rich in lysine include
eggs, most vegetables, legumes, avocado,
chicken, fish, turkey, and ricotta cheese.
Additionally, many folks take a lysine
supplement. These normally come in a 500
mg. tablet or capsule. During a cold sore
event, taking 4-6 pills a day seems to help
a lot of people.
Studies have been done on taking a long
term “maintenance dosage” to keep the
herpes virus latent. After a year or so,
the lysine effect wears off – and increased
dosages are necessary to keep the herpes
virus asleep. My personal experience has
been the same. I now just save the lysine
pills for times of stress or when I
actually feel a cold sore coming on.
Arginine, on the other hand, seems to wake
up the virus and encourage it to reproduce.
This isn’t surprising. Arginine is a little
known but very powerful sexual enhancer.
Foods that are high in arginine are
chocolate, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts,
and walnuts), sunflower and sesame seeds,
grains (oat and wheat), peas, most cheeses
except ricotta, milk and pork. Don’t avoid
these foods – just balance them better with
the lysine foods. Really – who can avoid
chocolate for very long?
There is so much more I’d love to tell you
about what causes cold sores, but it’s not
possible in the space available for this
Hopefully I have been able to give you
enough information that you will better
understand – at least for yourself -what
causes cold sores.
About the Author:
Denny Bodoh is a 33 year newspaper veteran
and a health and nutrition research writer.
If you desire to know more about cold
sores, and what you can do about them,
visit Denny’s wildly popular website: