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5 Foods To Avoid With Cold Sores

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Whether you feel a cold sore coming on or have one in full swing, there are ways to ward off some of the discomfort they often bring. For example, you might want to avoid certain foods that trigger cold sores and their symptoms to help you steer clear of further agitating your sore. Here are five foods to avoid with cold sores, as well as a few home remedies you can try for cold sore relief.

1. Oranges

Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits are a few foods to avoid with cold sores. These fruits contain acid, which may cause a burning sensation on contact with a cold sore blister, as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains. Tomatoes are another food that contains a high level of acid. Choose milder alternatives, such as bananas, grapes and cucumbers for your daily fruit and vegetable intake.

2. Pickles

Vinegar may irritate or sting cold sore blisters, according to Brown University Health Services, and that means that you might want to put pickles aside as a garnish on burgers or as a snack. Stick with non-pickled vegetables such as lettuce on burgers, and try munching on raw carrot sticks between meals.

3. Curry

If you love spicy foods, sorry, but it may be best to steer clear of them while you're managing a cold sore outbreak. Brown University Health Services explains that highly spiced meals could irritate the sensitive cold sore area in or around your mouth. Instead, try a mild casserole or stew and mashed potatoes for your main meal.

4. Pizza

Brown University Health Services notes that you should avoid foods that require you to open your mouth wide if you have a cold sore. That may mean your favorite pizza may be out of the running for dinner. During later stages of a cold sore, the blisters and scabs are vulnerable to splitting open if you stretch your mouth too wide. If you're really craving that slice, try cutting up the pizza into manageable sections with a knife and fork instead of using your hands.

5. Salted Peanuts and Chips

Much like acidic foods, salty foods can also cause a burning sensation when they come into contact with a cold sore, as the AAD notes. Hold off on snacks such as salted peanuts and chips until after your sore has healed. If you must nibble, try unsalted nuts, raisins or dried coconut.

Home Remedies for Cold Sores

In addition to modifying your diet to avoid irritating a cold sore, you can try one or more home remedies for cold sore relief. The AAD offers several tips:

  • When you first feel that tingling sensation signaling that a cold sore is on its way, apply an antiviral ointment to reduce the duration of the outbreak — either a prescription ointment from your physician or an over-the-counter product.
  • When the cold sore arrives, apply a non-prescription ointment or gel for pain relief, following the instructions on the label.
  • Wrap ice cubes in a soft, clean cloth and hold them against the cold sore, or suck on ice chips.
  • Run a faucet until the water is cold, then wet a towel and hold it against the cold sore for five to 10 minutes several times per day.
  • Gently spread petroleum jelly over the cold sore and surrounding area to prevent sore, dry, cracked skin.
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most cold sores heal without treatment within two to four weeks. However, your dentist may recommend one of several antiviral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir or penciclovir, to speed up the healing process. If your cold sore outbreak is severe, they may recommend an injection of an antiviral drug.

Cold sores are a sad fact of life for a large portion of the population, but that doesn't mean that you have to suffer more than the minimum discomfort and inconvenience. Avoid foods that exacerbate your symptoms, and try some home remedies to help you tolerate the cold sore until it heals. If you're concerned that the outbreak is more severe than usual, you can ask your dentist or physician about prescription cold sore treatments.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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