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How Long Does the Cold Sore Virus Live Outside the Body?

how long does the cold sore virus live outside the body

The herpes virus is infamous for a few frustrating qualities: it’s highly contagious, yet currently impossible to cure.

If you or a loved one is infected with the herpes virus, you may be concerned about how long the cold sore virus lives outside of the body. Perhaps you wonder if it’s possible to get infected (or infect others) through contact with shared surfaces and objects.

Fortunately, most evidence suggests that the herpes simplex virus doesn’t live very long on exterior surfaces. Here’s what you should know about the tendencies of the cold sore virus once it leaves the body.

How Long Does the Cold Sore Virus Live Outside the Body?

Scientists have been exploring this question for decades. Though we still don’t have an exact answer, it’s believed that the herpes simplex virus dies quickly after leaving the body and settling on another surface.

According to the book, Managing Herpes by the American Social Health Association, herpes transmission through objects is possible, but not likely. The life of the virus on an inanimate object is estimated to be a few hours. After that, the virus weakens and loses its ability to invade new cells.

For example, if you have an active cold sore outbreak and wipe your mouth with a towel, the virus is only at risk of spreading to another person if the same area of the same towel is used soon afterward. This is easy to avoid with common-sense prevention and care.

Even as far back as the 1980s, venereal disease experts stated that viruses like herpes were unlikely to spread through common surfaces such as toilet seats or towels.


Can You Get Herpes From Sharing a Drink?

The short answer is no, you can’t get herpes from sharing a drink. Though it’s theoretically possible to transmit herpes when sharing drinks, experts agree that it’s highly unlikely.

There’s one main underlying reason for this: the herpes virus dies quickly when exposed to air. So even if a person with herpes drinks from your straw, the virus weakens and dies within a few hours.

Of the two types of herpes, Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is more likely to spread from sharing drinks, even if it’s unlikely. HSV-1 presents itself in the form of a cold sore around the mouth. If you have active, open, weeping cold sores and you share a drink or straw with another person, the virus can transmit through your saliva.

To share drinks with minimal risk, use separate straws or refrain from sharing until all signs of cold sores have disappeared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly states that saliva, not common surfaces, is the most likely source of herpes infection for HSV-1.

how long does the cold sore virus live outside the body

What Should You Do If You Have an Outbreak?

You know the dreaded early warning signs of a cold sore outbreak: the tingling and burning under the skin that transforms into emerging sores that eventually weep and crust over. Use these prevention and treatment options to minimize your cold sore outbreak symptoms and ensure you don’t transmit the virus to others.

Cold Sore Prevention

In addition to careful hygiene habits, you can also take strategic preventative measures to stop cold sores before they start. These tips will help you keep the herpes virus dormant and far away from becoming a cold sore on the surface of your skin.

Use The Right Foods and Supplements

Lean protein sources such as eggs, almonds, and chicken play a key role in your body’s ability to fight infection. In particular, it’s two amino acids found in protein—glutamine and arginine—that modulate your body’s response to viruses like genital herpes.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also indispensable in your battle against inflammation. Load up on salmon, chia seeds, flaxseed, and mackerel to accelerate your body’s response to inflammation and, in turn, limit or manage the effects of your next cold sore outbreak.

You may also want to consider chickpeas, pork, lamb, and wheat germ, which all contain high levels of zinc. Research shows that zinc ions are active against the herpes simplex virus and may even extend the time between outbreaks.

You can also make lysine a regular part of your routine. Research is still ongoing, but recent reports suggest that daily lysine supplementation may reduce the recurrences of herpes outbreaks. Though lower doses of lysine show little effect, high doses of up to 3,000 mg a day may be beneficial.

Improve Sleep Habits

Sleep is one of your most valuable defenses against disease. Rest doesn’t just refresh your mind, it recharges your immune system as well.

Stop fatigue from zapping your immune system and making you vulnerable to cold sore outbreaks with these tips:

  • Create a soothing sleep environment
  • Reduce technology and blue light before bedtime
  • Develop a consistent evening routine to wind down
  • Get regular exercise during the day

Cold Sore Treatments

What can you do to get rid of a cold sore faster than the expected seven to ten days? Try these techniques and strategies to limit the amount of time you spend feeling uncomfortable and humiliated by your cold sore blisters.

Over-the-Counter Treatment for Temporary Relief

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) options available for cold sore relief. Abreva® and Orajel™ are the two strongest OTC options.

Orajel™ provides instant and targeted pain relief in and around the mouth. For herpes simplex cold sores, the Orajel™ Cold Sore formula includes six active ingredients shown to treat the pain, itching, and dryness caused by cold sores. It can be applied up to four times a day to help you stay comfortable through an outbreak.

Abreva® is also an over-the-counter cream used to treat cold sores and fever blisters, but it works differently. Abreva® contains the only non-prescription ingredient approved by the FDA to accelerate the cold sore healing process. This OTC treatment can be used up to five times a day, or as directed by your doctor.


The Luminance RED for Lasting Results

The Luminance Red is a breakthrough cold sore treatment that harnesses medically optimized light technology to shorten healing time and decrease the frequency of new outbreaks.

This cutting-edge device nourishes the skin with high-powered light, which is metabolized to accelerate the body’s healing process and strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Regular use of the Luminance RED not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks, but it can prevent future outbreaks altogether!

The Luminance Red device is easy to use to reduce the effects of cold sore outbreaks. It is designed to be held about one centimeter from the area being treated for two 60 second sessions. It should be applied at least once a day, but up to three times a day, for maximum efficiency.

Is There a Cure for Herpes?

Researchers have been experimenting with potential herpes vaccines for decades, but to date, only the shingles and chickenpox variants of herpes can be prevented with a vaccine.

Clinical trial testing for herpes vaccines has proved difficult for many reasons, including asymptomatic infection and unpredictable viral shedding.

Until a herpes cure becomes a reality, it’s best to manage outbreaks with the best treatments available.

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