skip to Main Content
Truth About Cold Sores

Winter Woes: Uncovering the Truth About Cold Sores and Winter Weather

Winter has officially arrived in Kansas City, and temperatures have dropped well below freezing. While we’ve had some snow lately, we’ve also experienced that familiar “dry chill” that affects not just the air but also our oral health. Many of us are battling the seasonal discomforts of dry mouths, chapped lips, and even dreaded cold sores.

You can do a few things at home to guard against the first two, such as adding a humidifier to your bedroom to help alleviate dry air at night or using lip balm to take care of your chapped lips. What about cold sores? Are they really a product of winter weather, as their name implies? How are they different from canker sores? What can you do about them? Your Kansas City family dentist has the answers!

For starters, yes, cold sores and canker sores are different, and they have different causes and different methods of treatment. Let’s learn a little more!

What are canker sores? The simplest way to remember the difference is that canker sores are the ones inside your mouth. They are small, open wounds that can develop pretty much anywhere inside your mouth, including on or below your tongue, on the roof of your mouth, on your gums, inside your cheeks, and so on. Unlike cold sores, which we’ll get to in a minute, canker sores are unlikely to be exacerbated by the weather, meaning that they can happen at any time of year. Rather than weather, canker sores are caused by factors such as stress, certain drugs including ibuprofen, nutritional deficiencies, and eating choices—especially highly acidic foods like lemons, oranges, pineapples, and even soda.

What are cold sores? To answer one of the questions we posed earlier, yes, cold sores are more likely to appear when the temperature drops, but that doesn’t mean they are directly caused by cold weather. Instead, cold sores are actually a symptom of an infection, specifically that of the herpes simplex virus type 1, also known as HSV. Their nicknames include “oral herpes” and “fever blisters,” and they tend to form around the outside of the mouth. If they’re a result of a virus, why are they more prevalent in cold weather? Because cold, dry weather can have a major impact on your skin, which can kickstart the virus that causes cold sores.

What can you do? The good news is that both cold sores and canker sores can be treated and, better yet, often prevented. Canker sores are frequently a result of stress or dietary choices, which means that your Kansas City family dentist can offer advice to help change your daily habits in ways that will reduce your risk of canker sores. While cold sores may be caused by a virus that’s not likely to go away once you’ve got it, you can still reduce their likelihood of cropping up by protecting yourself from the elements, especially during the cold winter months. We often bundle up when we go out in the cold, but we frequently leave our faces uncovered. Don’t do that! Wear a scarf, pull up a turtleneck, or invest in some other kind of covering that protects the lower part of your face from the biting winter wind.

Hopefully, this advice will help you avoid cold sores and canker sores this winter, but cold sores are just one of the many ways that icy winter weather can affect our oral health. If you have questions or need to schedule your next checkup, call Blacker Family Dental in Kansas City, MO at (816) 763-8400 or click here to schedule an appointment today!