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How to Talk to Your Teen About Cold Sore Symptoms

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If you’re living with teenagers, we don’t have to tell you the difficulties of trying to get them to open up and talk. Even the most well meaning, coolest parents can still receive an eye-roll and a one-word answer to a question every now and then.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying, especially when it comes to connecting with teens around health issues. After all, the more knowledge you can provide your teen, the better prepared they’ll be out on their own and around their friends.

One health issue that may be embarrassing for tweens and teens to talk about is cold sores. Not only can it be awkward to talk about the differences between herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), but if your teen does get cold sores, they may already be feeling self-conscious about the subject.

We sat down with Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and pediatrician in Beverly Hills, CA, to get some tips for parents on how to talk to their teens about cold sores, cold sore symptoms, and prevention.

The Truth About Cold Sores

First thing’s first, says Shainhouse: Cold sores caused by HSV-1 are not an STD, and it’s quite possibly not our fault if we have them. “Many people are exposed in childhood, i.e, when an adult who gets cold sores shares a cup/utensil/food or gives them a kiss.”

Second, cold sores are extremely common. “Up to 80 percent of the US population has HSV antibodies to herpes circulating in their blood, meaning that they have personally been exposed to the HSV virus,” Shainhouse says. “You can have these antibodies but never actually develop a herpes sore on your skin.” About 50 percent of the US population has cold sore outbreaks caused by HSV-1.

These facts alone should help your teen feel less isolated and awkward if they’re ever dealing with an outbreak, because the chances are very high that they have a friend (or even a parent) who’s been through it, too.

Cold Sore Symptoms: It’s Not as Bad as You Think

According to Shainhouse, most cold sores take about a week to heal on their own, which is relatively the same amount of time as it takes for a blemish to fully heal. And even though your teen might be self-conscious if they get a cold sore, “Most of the people who see [them] probably think it is a pimple.”

The more you can drive home the point to your teen that they’re probably hyper-focusing on something other people don’t even notice, the easier it should be for them to go about their routine, cold sore or no cold sore.

If your teen does deal with the occasional cold sore, it’s also important to let them know that Abreva can help can help them heal their cold sore faster. Abreva can help get rid of cold sores in as little as two and a half days when used at the first sign1.

Being a teen can be hard, especially with all the outside pressures and messages coming at them 24/7. And even if they don’t express it, your teen may really need your help when it comes to navigating their health and happiness. Do your best to sidestep the awkwardness (or the occasional groan of annoyance), and open a clear channel of communication between you and your teen. In the future, everyone will be glad you did!

1 Median healing time 4.1 days. 25% of users healed in 2.5 days.

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