5 signs a Christmas Cold Sore is Coming

Navigating Cold Sore Season: Recognizing the Signs, Triggers, and Preventative Measures- By Dr Eva Melegh

Reading time: 4 minutes

Over 50% of the population carries the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores.

Since lockdown due to Covid 19, there has reportedly been an increase in people contracting the herpes simplex virus as well as an increase in cold sore outbreaks, maybe due to lowered immunity due to contracting covid itself or an increase in the contracting of other infections and bugs due to lack of exposure during lockdown.

There are also suggestions by doctors that after lockdown, intimate physical contact spiked as people got back on the dating scene, which is another risk factor for catching the virus.

‘Winter and in particular the festive season is often one of the times of the year that cold sores peak, due to the colder weather, seasonal illness, increased alcohol consumption and festive socialising habits,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Eva Melegh.

Many treatments are available once a cold sore has broken out but once this has happened the sore is going to take its course and likely crust, burst and then scab. The key is to try and prevent this from happening.

The earlier an emerging cold sore is caught the less severe the outbreak is likely to be, and the sore can even be prevented from break out at all, so knowing the signs or triggers for a cold sore are crucial in order to try and prevent the sore actually breaking out and running Christmas.

Dr Eva Melegh advises on 5 signs a cold sore could be coming.

Chapping & cracking

With cold winter winds outside and dry centrally heated environment insides, winter is a time when lips get very dry and often chap or crack.

Even the smallest injury or abrasion to lips prone to cold sores significantly increases the risk of a cold sore outbreak.

At areas on lips prone to cold sores, the skin is even more fragile and tends to crack or chap more easily than in other areas of the lips so if this happens, then a cold sore is highly likely to follow.

Tingling & itching

A sure sign that a cold sore is on its way is a tingling or itching feeling on your lip at the site the cold sore is going to appear about 2-3 days before a small hard lump begins to form at the site of the emerging cold sore.

Painful gums & metallic taste

Often the skin on the inside of the lips and the gums can also give off warning signs that a cold sore is soon to emerge. Aching gums and prickly sensitive and metallic tasting skin on the inside of the lips, similar to a feeling when you have eaten abrasive salty food, is a tell-tale sign of a cold sore coming.

Sore throat & feverish

When a cold sore is on its way it means that the herpes simplex virus that lies dormant in your spine and in the skin around your lips is in an active stage. When the virus is active it can put the body into a state of alert.

A slight sore throat and mild feverishness without the presence of the other symptoms of a cold can mean that a cold sore is on the way in a few days.

Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes in the neck swell when the body has low defences, or a virus or bacterial infection is present and are often an early tell-tale sign that a cold sore is about to be active.

Small pea-sized lumps just below and behind the ears and a slightly sore neck are both signs of swollen lymph nodes.


What to do when a cold sore is on the way:

  1. Start drinking a lot of water (if drinking from a bottle, clean the lid after each time you drink from it)
  2. Stop drinking alcohol.
  3. Avoid hot water and hot drinks getting in contact with the lips.
  4. Stop using lipsticks.
  5. Do not exfoliate or scrub the lip area.
  6. Don't touch the lips.
  7. Drink tepid Liquorice Tea.
  8. Apply a preventative treatment several times a day at the first warning signs of a cold sore. Try Lip Q Liquorice & Melissa Rescue Gel ( which has been proven by the Herpes Virus Association to help reduce the intensity of outbreaks due to its strong anti-viral action. Sufferers should apply the lip gel at the first warning signs of a cold sore. If possible, use a cotton bud to apply the gel, or a clean dry finger that you wash immediately afterwards.


Dr Eva Melegh

Dr Eva Melegh M.D. dermatologist & cosmetologist is a member of the Belgian Society of Dermatology & Venereology.