Does smoking or vaping promote cold sores?

Hi there,

I came across this question about the effect smoking has on cold sores:

“Since the beginning of 2020, my cold sores have been becoming more frequent. From one every three months, now to one every few weeks. I’ve been to my doctor several times and expressed my concern about these progressively more frequent outbreaks. I was prescribed medication, but it is only for shortening the lifespan and not reducing the possibility of getting a cold sore.

Besides all the tips I’ve gotten from people about preventing a cold sore, one thing I think maybe a factor is that I vape nicotine. I started getting into smoking with friends around the same time my breakouts became more frequent. I’ve had the thought of just quitting to test and see if that would help the issue. Unfortunately, I’ve become addicted and usually end up returning to vaping once I’ve become comfortable after my sore has healed.

Does anyone know if that is a factor in my cold sore dilemma, or hand me their advice for my situation?”

Sounds to me like he answered his own question, when he says that his outbreaks got more frequent right around the time he started smoking.

That being said, being addicted to something that causes cold sores is a tough spot to be in.

Because the only way to figure out if it triggers cold sores is to avoid it for a period of time, which is painful and hard to do (depending on the addiction in question).

Now, I don’t know much about kicking addictions, so I can’t help with that part.

But I do know cold sores.

So, let’s take a look at the question of whether or not smoking can promote the recurrence of cold sores.

The answer is a resounding, unequivocal YES.

Here’s three reasons why.

Reason #1 – Science

If you’ve been reading the emails I send, you know by now that the activation of the c-jun-n-terminal-kinase pathway (JNK pathway for short) is what signals the herpes virus to wake up.

Well, as it turns out, studies have shown that cigarette smoke leads to increased activity of the JNK pathway.

So, do the math:

Cigarette smoke = increased JNK activity = increased reactivation of the herpes virus

It’s not rocket science.

Reason #2 – Your immune system

Countless studies have also shown that smoking cigarettes negatively impacts your immune system.

So how well do you think your body will be able to fight off the herpes virus if you’re immune system is running low?

Not very well, I’d say.

Reason #3 – Common sense

Smoking cigarettes has been linked to a slew of health problems and diseases. Cardiovascular, respiratory, autoimmune diseases, allergies, cancers, etc.

It literally kills thousands of people on a daily basis.

So why would cold sores be an exception?

They’re not.

So those are three good reasons why smoking is bad for cold sores.

Now as for the question about vaping, it’s harder to tell. There haven’t been nearly as many studies done on vaping as there have been with cigarettes.

So maybe it’s a trigger, maybe it’s not.

That being said, my uninformed/gut instinct on vaping tells me this:

Constantly filling your lungs with anything other than clean air can’t possibly be very good for you.

Plus, those vaping pens don’t just contain nicotine and water. They’ve been found to contain nasty ingredients like formaldehyde, weed killers, heavy metals, and various chemicals that are proven lung destructors.

So sure, they’re probably healthier than smoking cigarettes (although the jury is still out). But there’s no way it’s healthier than not vaping at all.

So if you’re a vaper or smoker who gets cold sores on the regular, it could be worth stopping for a while to see what happens (better said than done though, I know).

If it doesn’t help, then you’ll know your cold sores are getting triggered by something else.

At the end of the day, if something is bad for your health, it probably doesn’t help with recurring cold sores.

I see my cold sores as a sort of barometer for my health. If I get more outbreaks than usual, it’s probably a sign that something’s off with my health/diet/lifestyle.

Because at the end of the day, preventing cold sores comes down to managing your exposure to the compounds that increase the odds of triggering a cold sore.

Expose yourself too much and you’re more likely to break out.

On the other hand, limit your exposure and your odds of triggering cold sore drop drastically.

If you want to find out what triggers YOUR cold sores to come back over and over again, take the Cold Sore Quiz at the link below:

Take the 60-Second Cold Sore Quiz Right Now

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Chris "the Cold Sore Killer" Mueller