Pharmacy Corner
Cold Sores: What You Need to Know What can I do to prevent them?

  • Applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to the face and lips can prevent cold sores triggered by sunlight
  • Avoid touching your cold sores
  • Wash your hands often, especially after applying a cold sore cream or touching the area
  • Do not share creams with others or items that come into contact with the lips and mouth such as lipsticks, or cutlery
  • Avoid kissing or oral sex, until your cold sores have completely healed
  • If you have a cold sore, be particularly careful around newborn babies, pregnant women, and people with a low immune systems such as cancer patients
  • Lower your stress. You can do this through relaxation exercises (e.g. yoga, meditation) and getting enough sleep can help prevent future cold sore outbreaks.


Cold sores are very contagious so try to avoid touching them, washing your hands often can help to avoid spreading the virus to another part of your body or to another person.

What triggers a cold sore?

There are many things that will trigger a cold sore. Some of these triggers can be avoided and prevent future cold sores. They can vary from person to person, the most common are:

Triggers can be divided into 3 categories:




  • Sun exposure or UV light (e.g. tanning beds)

  • Cold weather or wind

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Fever or illness (e.g. cold or flu)

  • Trauma

  • Fatigue

  • Menstruation, pregnancy or other hormonal changes

  • Dental work (e.g. tooth extractions)

  • Chemical facial peels

  • Chemotherapy

  • Oral or facial surgery


Writing down what causes your cold sores in a journal can be helpful. This way you can try to avoid these triggers and prevent new cold sores. Suggested items to write down include:

  • Date your cold sore started

  • Any unique activities or events around the time of the breakout (e.g. stressful life events, dental procedures)

  • Amount of sun exposure

  • Physical or hormonal changes (e.g. females to document last menses)