Herpes recurs more often in the wintertime?


Is there any data indicating that recurrences of genital herpes occur more often during the winter? That seems to be the case with me.

— Cold sores?

Dear Cold sores?,

The following factors may trigger an episode in some people with genital herpes:

  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Illness
  • Menstruation
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Friction
  • Surgical trauma
  • Use of steroidal medication (e.g., asthma treatment)

Data regarding outbreaks of genital herpes occurring more often in winter is inconclusive; however, increased susceptibility to a genital herpes episode can also be related to a lowered immune response in general or during the winter, an unhealthy eating plan, or use of drugs that weaken the immune system. Still, causes of herpes recurrences remain unclear and outbreaks are often unpredictable.

Finally, people have different triggers for herpes episodes. While you may get more recurrences of herpes in the winter, others may have more recurrences during times of stress. Sometimes getting enough rest and/or eating well to boost your immune system can make a difference as to whether or not you have an episode. And, sometimes having a herpes episode is just out of your control. If you aren't already taking herpes medication, you may want to ask your health care provider about them. Herpes medications can help speed the healing process of a recurrence and even reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes.

For more information, you can visit the American Sexual Health Association or check out the related Q&As below.

Last updated Feb 07, 2013
Originally published Apr 18, 1995

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