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Herpes Triggers

What triggers herpes recurrences?

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 caused by 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 area.

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 prolonged unemployment.

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 every night.

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 well.

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, including taking 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 library of 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.

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