Cold sores

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Cold sores are blisters that form around the mouth and inside the nose often appearing towards the end of a cold. This common and infectious virus can also attack other parts of the face, the genitals and other skin areas.


  • Itching or tingling of the skin in the affected area (normally the lips) - this may precede the appearance of the cold sore
  • One or many clusters of small blisters forming over inflamed skin and filled with a yellowish or white fluid
  • Red, painful sores on or near the mouth and lips, or on fingers
  • Swollen, sensitive gums of a deep red colour
  • A fever and/or flu-like symptoms


Cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus, which is transmitted by contact such as kissing an infected person or sharing eating utensils.

The virus may lie dormant in the body for years, sometimes without causing any symptoms, only to be activated during periods of low immune status, stress, exposure to cold, and sunburn. Some women also find that menstruation can trigger cold sores.

Natural therapies

  • The amino acid L-lysine helps to reduce the frequency and severity of cold sore outbreaks

Diet and lifestyle

The Herpes virus is made stronger by the amino acid L-arginine and weaker by L-lysine. Avoid foods rich in L-arginine (such as nuts, chocolate, carob, coconut, soya beans and oats). At the same time, increase foods high in L-lysine, (such as kidney beans, split peas, fish, lamb, milk, cheese and sprouts), and consider taking an L-lysine supplement.

Stress can be a trigger for cold sore outbreak - if you are getting lots of cold sores your stress levels may be to blame - look for ways to cope better.

Important notes

Consult your healthcare professional if:

  • Cold sores develop near the eyes or on eyes
  • You develop a high fever or chills
  • Your sores are very painful

Get free personalised advice from our team of qualified naturopaths here