Cold sores are highly contagious and can be contracted easily and often at the worst times. Once you have the herpes simplex virus in your system, a variety of factors can put you at risk of an outbreak.
Exposure as a child
We are usually first infected with the cold sore virus when we are kids. Children may come into contact with the virus from sharing items with other kids at school or coming into close contact with someone who has a cold sore. The virus normally stays dormant in the body until it is triggered by physiological or environmental factors.
Exposure as an adult
Even if you don't have the virus in your system you can easily catch it through contact with an infected person. If someone touches their cold sore and then happens to touch your hands, you are at risk of getting the virus. Even sharing objects that the infected person has used, can increase your chances of developing a cold sore. Keep in mind that cold sores are the most contagious when they are an open sore and you can easily spread the virus to other parts of your body by touching the oozing blisters. Once the cold sore turns into a scab, it is no longer contagious.
Many people don't realize that cold sores can also be spread to other people in the form of genital herpes. Although cold sores and genital herpes comes from different strands of the herpes simplex virus, if you engage in oral sex with someone who has an outbreak, chances are the virus will spread to you.
Other factors that put you at risk
Other factors that can increase your risk of developing cold sores include a weakened immune system, menstruation, eczema, and some medications. Cold sores are a permanent chronic condition and understanding these risk factors will help you keep yourself better protected from contracting the virus.