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What Causes Herpes Flare Ups On Lips? 

What Causes Herpes Flare Ups On Lips? 

Sep 29, 2022

If you’re prone to HSV-1 herpes outbreaks on your lips, they seem to appear at the most inconvenient times: just before an important event, a night out with friends, a big test, or an upcoming job interview. 

Coincidence? Maybe.

Bad luck? Possibly. 

herpes on lips

But realistically, situations like these are stressful and the virus that causes cold sores can be triggered by your physical and emotional stress. Long-term stress can even increase the frequency of your outbreaks. 

Overall, knowing what causes herpes flare ups can go a long way towards predicting an oncoming outbreak (which can then be swiftly addressed with probiotics, creams and other treatments).

Below, we’ll look at some common triggers as to why cold sores flare up. 

What Is HSV-1?

HSV-1 is a variant of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and is common globally. HSV-1 is typically transmitted by oral-to-oral contact and will cause oral herpes -an infection in or around the mouth. 

For comparison, HSV-2 is mainly sexually transmitted and causes genital herpes.


Oral herpes is mostly asymptomatic (no recognizable symptoms except for flare ups), but can cause painful blisters or ulcers at the site of infection. These infections can range from mild to severe. 

HSV-1 infection is lifelong, and symptoms can re-ocur over many years. Some medications are available to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms, but they cannot cure the infection.

Visit the World Health Organization for some key facts and statistics about HSV-1. 

What Causes Herpes Flare Ups?

The HSV-1 herpes infection that causes fever blisters can lie dormant for a period of time, only to emerge once a certain trigger activates it. 

Most people can feel when an upcoming lip outbreak is about to occur, which can help them prepare for treating it. However, an extra proactive step forward involves predicting and knowing the factors that can cause the outbreak in the first place.

cold sore flare ups

Triggers for lip outbreaks vary from person to person, so it’s important to listen to your own body and keep tabs on what commonly triggers lip outbreaks for you. 

With that said, avoiding these triggers can help prevent the emergence of an outbreak or lip blister.

Herpes Flare Up Factors

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are responsible for the majority of lip outbreaks. This includes extremes in the weather such as:

Sun exposure: Large amounts of UV radiation from the sun can damage the skin and cause chapped lips, increasing the likelihood of a lip outbreak.

cold wind herpes

Cold winds. Cold temperatures and moisture changes alongside harsh winds can trigger lip outbreaks. Additionally, winds can cause dry, cracked lips which make them more vulnerable to outbreaks.


Research indicates that restricting foods that contain a lot of arginine can help stage off lip outbreaks and lip blisters. 

Arginine is an amino acid used by the body to synthesize proteins. Arginine-containing foods that may trigger a lip outbreak include:

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts - including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts
  • Squash
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Spirulina
  • Seaweed
  • Dark leafy greens (for example, spinach)
  • Seeds - including pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds

In addition, large changes to the routine of your diet, such a sudden, increased consumption of highly acidic foods, can increase the frequency of outbreaks.

Health-related factors  

Many health-related factors can make an outbreak more likely. This includes:

Hormonal changes: Fluctuating hormone levels, such as what occurs during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or as a result of birth control pill use, can trigger lip outbreaks and lip blisters.

Mental stress can wreak havoc on the immune system and predispose you to lip outbreaks. This one is largely due to the increased levels of cortisol that is released under stress, which suppresses the immune system.

mental stress

Lack of sleep. Similar to stress, feeling tired and losing out on quality sleep can make it more likely to suffer a lip outbreak. Sleep deprivation majorly taxes the immune system.

Common colds and flu weaken the immune system and can up the chance of an infection. Inflammatory conditions that stress the immune system, such as eczema and psoriasis, can also make an lip outbreak or cold sore more likely.

Mouth surgery, and even dental treatment can put physical stress and pressure on the mouth area. The stress and anxiety accompanying these procedures can also further increase the chances of a lip outbreak.

Skin Injuries. Skin trauma, particularly around the lips, can trigger lip outbreaks and blisters

Immunosuppressant Medications. This includes medications to control severe psoriasis, cancer chemotherapy, or anti-rejection drugs for organ transplants. All of these can suppress the immune system and make an lip outbreak more likely.

Stages of an HSV-1 Flare Up 

Some people may never experience a cold sore outbreak, while others may feel unwell due to flu-like symptoms and ulcers around the mouth. Symptoms of herpes can manifest differently in each person. 

Common signs or stages associated with cold sores:

Tingling lips. Most people have the sensation of itching, burning or tingling lips within 24 hours before small painful spots appear.

Blisters form. Lips will be red, swollen and painful as those spots erupt into blisters.

Weeping. Blisters rupture over the next few days and ooze clear or yellow fluid.

Open sores. Within five days, when the lip blisters appear, they may look like shallow sores that crust and scabs over. Bleeding or cracking may occur during healing.

Scabs. When the scab comes off, there may be pink skin underneath. The fresh-looking skin eventually disappears as the cold sores heal entirely over the next few weeks. 

Herpes Flare Up Treatment

There are a number of different treatments and remedy for mouth and lip related herpes flare ups.

There is no one-size-fits all treatment, but we recommend adding a daily probiotic supplement like Clear Probiotics Lip & Skin Health to improve lip health by strengthening your immune system. 

herpes flare up

Clear Lip & Skin Health, contains the following ingredients proven to help heal cold sores and reduce the frequency of outbreaks:

  • L-Lysine    
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus Acidophilus

You may not be able to see just how healthy your mouth and lips are just by looking in the mirror, however, after taking probiotics every day for an extended period of time, you may notice that you feel better and get sick less often.

herpes treatment

You’ll become aware that your cold sores heal faster or that the frequency of the outbreaks has decreased. 

Maintaining a healthy diet, reducing stress and getting a good night's rest may work with probiotics to improve your overall health, leaving lips and skin looking and feeling healthier while helping to heal cold sores or reduce the frequency of outbreaks.  

While optimizing your lip health and beneficial gut flora through regular probiotic use may improve your cold sores, always consult a physician if your outbreaks are prolonged, severe or extremely painful.

Natural Ways To Reduce Cold Sore Outbreaks

While no one can promise a miracle, some natural ingredients help speed the healing of lip blisters and reduce the frequency of their occurrence. 

You can try these natural remedies at home to ease pain, inflammation and possibly prevent future outbreaks:

  • Lysine - Available in an oral, probiotic-based supplement or lip creams
  • Vitamin C and E - Both antioxidants may assist the body in fighting off HPV-1, preventing new cold sores
  • Lemon Balm - A potent antiviral, this herbal extract may relieve symptoms related to cold sores while helping to heal them.
  • Manuka Honey - Studies find that this unique honey is effective as a topical when applied to those painful blisters. 
  • Ice - An ice pack can soothe cold sores temporarily (do not apply ice or ice packs directly to lip skin

Before attempting any of these treatment regimes, it’s always recommended to first check with a medical professional. 

Final Thoughts on Herpes Flare Ups on the Lips

The various environmental, health-related, and food triggers discussed above can predictably bring the infection from its dormant to its active state, but this varies widely from person to person. 

Knowing your own personal cold sore triggers is the most effective way to stop a lip outbreak. Keeping a daily journal or log of your diet, lifestyle, and health can help you narrow down the specific factors for you that precede an outbreak.

The common thread through all of the triggers is a weakened immune system, so keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle in addition to taking immune-boosting supplements can all help to keep the immune system in optimal shape to prevent or combat any emerging outbreaks.


“Long-Term Stress May Trigger Herpes Outbreaks.” WebMD, November 11, 1999. Web. Retrieved July 7,, 2020, from

Vermes, Krystle. “Can Certain Foods Trigger Cold Sore Outbreaks? - Cold Sore Prevention.” Healthline, January 27, 2020. Web. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

"How Good Gut Health Can Boost Your Immunity." Healthy Magazine, July 18, 2019. Web. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

"How Good Gut Health Can Boost Your Immunity - Boost Your Bacteria." Healthy Magazine, July 18, 2019. Web. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

"Cold Sore - Diagnosis and Treatment." Mayo Clinic, June 17, 2020. Web. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from