As the days get darker, the weather turns and our bodies get ready for the winter months ahead; it’s also the season where cold sores and herpes can be more prevalent.
Marie Stopes Australia head of telehealth, and nurse at Marie Stopes Australia, Jane Hooker says that the herpes virus, the cause of the common cold sore, is present in about 85 percent of Australians, affecting both men and women.
There are two strains of the herpes virus. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV 1) is most commonly associated with cold sores; small blisters that usually form on the lips or skin around the mouth, nose and chin. Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV 2) is associated with genital herpes. During an episode of the infection, blisters, ulcers, sores or skin splits often appear in the groin or pubic area.
“What many people don’t know is both strains can occur on the face and genitals. So if you have a cold sore, it’s best to lay off the kissing and oral sex.”
Here are Jane’s top five tips to keep you herpes safe this winter:
• Protect your lips: cold winds can dry out your lips so make sure you always have lip balm on hand or better still, wrap a scarf around your mouth to protect it from harsh winds
• Boost your immune system: cold sores can rear their heads when your body is busy fight off those winter bugs. Eat plenty of leafy greens, keep up your vitamin C and avoid stress if possible
• Watch your bacteria: antibiotics used to treat winter bacterial bugs can lead to thrush. Thrush causes irritation of the skin which can spark genital herpes outbreaks if you have the herpes virus, particularly HSV2. So make sure you treat any thrush outbreaks as soon as possible
• Breathe!: Tights and other close-fitting garments can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis and thrush. Avoid tight fitting pants and synthetic underwear and give yourself some time to breathe
• Avoid: kissing and oral sex when you have a cold sore, especially at the ‘tingling stage’. Also avoid sex if you have a genital herpes outbreak.
Jane also recommends that if you do have persistent and difficult to control symptoms see your GP for further advice and support.