What triggers herpes
Long-term patterns in the cycle of active
and inactive phases also raise the question: What triggers HSV to break
out of its dormant phase and become active again? Can outbreaks be
avoided simply by avoiding these triggers?
Over the years, people with herpes have
put forth many candidates as the trigger for
recurrent herpes. These
include sickness, psychological stress, fatigue, menstruation, and poor
nutrition. Sun exposure – even the mildest sunburn – can be a trigger
for HSV, as can irritation or friction at the site of infection. And
some say that vigorous sex can cause this kind of irritation.
Few of these possible triggers have been
closely studied by researchers, but some work has been done. Scientists
have noted several types of outbreak stimulants in lab animals, among
them: skin irritation at the site of infection, surgical trauma to the
nerve or ganglion where the latent virus resides, and radiation.
Recently, very detailed studies have
looked at the role of intense ultraviolet light on facial cold sores
HSV-1. In these studies, 70% of the subjects exposed to about
two hours of midday sun developed herpes symptoms within a week.
Subjects who used sunscreen were protected. The message for people who
get cold sores is clear, particularly if they’re sensitive to the sun.
On the basis of a few small research studies, it seems that ultraviolet
light may well have a similar effect in triggering genital herpes in
those who have prolonged and direct exposures of the buttocks or genital
Menstruation remains prominent as a
trigger factor in anecdotal accounts, but researchers have found no
evidence of this in research studies.
Psychological stress has received a great
deal of attention as a possible trigger factor. Over two-thirds of the
respondents in ASHA’s 1991 survey, for example, indicated that
“stressful events contribute to herpes symptoms.” This issue also has
been examined by a variety of researchers, with somewhat contradictory
results. The latest study on stress, published in 1999, suggests that
there is not a relationship between short-term stress – say, a deadline
at the office – and genital herpes recurrence associated with stressors
lasting more than 7 days – for example, a period of anxiety about
In any case, can you avoid triggers? From
a strictly scientific point of view, outbreaks cannot be predicted with
accuracy. No one will be able to identify the certain cause of every
flare-up, and some people won’t have a clue about any of them. At the
same time, however, it appears that many people with herpes do begin to
associate certain events or behaviors with reactivation.
Once identified, triggers can sometimes be
avoided. If sunburn gives you a bad case of cold sores, there is always
sunscreen, lip balm, and a hat. If outbreaks seem to be brought on by
fatigue, maybe it’s time to get serious about a quality eight hours
Stress is perhaps a more troublesome
category. There is little point for most of us in trying to create
“stress-free” lives. In fact, even if we did, there is no proof that
we’d be free from HSV reactivations. Nonetheless, it’s widely accepted
that managing stress through exercise or other activities can be
beneficial to one’s overall physical and mental health. It’s possible,
though not proven, that this may have some benefit in managing herpes as
Many triggers are not known or can’t be
foreseen. Other you may have good reason to suspect but can’t do much
about. The last thing you want to do is blame yourself for recurrences
or try endless experimental strategies to avoid them. For some, this
becomes another form of obsession.
If, on the other hand, you gain clear
insight into your pattern of outbreaks, you may find practical ways of
sometimes averting them. Over time your knowledge of your own triggers
and your sensitivity to prodromal symptoms will likely increase. This
information, in turn, is something you can use in a variety of ways,
preventive medications or taking precautions to lower
the risk of transmitting herpes to a sexual partner.
I would have to say that the biggest
trigger for me is probably stress. I will admit that the longer I've had
this virus in my system the stress doesn't seem to get to me as much.
I'm also starting to think that perhaps I'm also becoming a little older
and a little bit wiser.? Seriously, if you don't have that book in your
herpes resources then it's time to order it. I have had this
one for awhile and I absolutely LOVE it. It covers EVERYTHING you'll
ever need to know about herpes until they find out more.
The subject of what can trigger a herpes
outbreak comes up so much that I thought it would be nice to borrow a
short piece straight from the Managing Herpes book. If you don't already
have this book in your arsenal of herpes information, I highly recommend
that you order it sooner rather than waiting until later.
If you would like to share with me what triggers
your flare ups I would love to hear from you. It doesn't matter if you
get coldsores or outbreaks down below, if there is something that you
feel triggered it to pop up I'd like to know about it so that I can
share that with my readers.
I think it's important for people to know that
everybody's triggers are different. In fact, they are so different that
many of us don't have them. Sometimes the outbreaks just happen with no
way for us to know for sure exactly why they happened. I do believe deep
down that stress have everything to do with it as well as our state of
mind and maybe how we are feeling physically.