Olympic Gold Medalist Misty May-Treanor
She’s knocked out numerous opponents in the sand, but three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, Misty May-Treanor, 35, has had trouble defeating a tough opponent: Cold sores.
Cold sores, fever blisters or canker sores: No matter what you call them, those red, blotchy bumps around the lip that are prominent during the cold and flu season are troublesome. They’re also common. “More than 80 million people suffer from cold sores,” says May-Treanor.
“If your immune system breaks down and you’re fatigued, you can get one. 'Tis the season for them because so many people are burning the candle at both ends,” says May-Treanor.
When you have a cold sore the skin in the affected area is red, swollen, and sore. It may blister, and that blister can break open and leak a clear fluid. The sore usually scabs over after a few days but if the scab is picked at, the sore can crack and bleed. Cold sores usually heal in several days to 2 weeks.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which typically enters the body through a break in the skin around or inside the mouth. The virus is spread by either touching a cold sore or infected fluid, such as by sharing a straw or fork or kissing someone with a cold sore.
“I've gotten cold sores for as long as I can remember and they always seem to pop up at the worst possible time. I never know when one will come out. But I did get one at one of the worst possible times: right in the middle of the 2012 London Games,” says May-Treanor.
Vying for a third straight Olympic gold medal meant a lot of cameras were trained on May-Treanor. And as the Star Spangled Banner played when May-Treanor and her partner, Kerri Walsh Jennings, stood atop the podium last summer, the world was able to see the cold sore that had scored a prime spot of real estate on Misty’s face.
“If you watched Olympics, you could see that I had a cold sore my lip,” says May-Treanor, who retired from the sport after the games.
She admits it’s tough for anyone, male or female, to have something on their face. It’s especially difficult when the whole world notices. “When you have a cold sore, you’re very self-conscious that the only thing people see is this thing on your lip,” she says.
Ironically, one of her greatest loves was also one of the biggest causes of May-Treanor’s cold sores.
“I think the stress of the games—getting ready for them and wanting to do well—came out in a cold sore,” she says.
The environment she played and practiced in didn’t help.
“I think in the beginning one of my biggest triggers was being in the sun so much. I was in the sun a lot and that caused the skin around my lips to get dry.”
Connecting the dots between the sun and cold sores helped May-Treanor take a proactive stand. “To combat the sun and heat I used more sun protection in that area and that helped a lot,” she says.
Then stress took over as head trigger.
“Even though the weather contributed, I realized that stress that brought them out more than anything,” says May-Treanor.
Now that she knows stress manifests in a cold sore, May-Treanor says works on managing stress to reduce the number of cold sores she experiences. She relies on these tricks to ease and battle stress:
Time management and planning. Instead of trying to do everything in one day, or all at once, May-Treanor says she’s slowed down just a little. “I won’t try to get all the holiday shopping done in one day or get every card out at once.”
Good hygiene. “I always make sure to wash my hands before touching my face or mouth, especially if I’m shopping or out. People might be sick and touch items they put back on the shelf or money that I’ll touch. Good hygiene is very important for cold sore sufferers.”
Exercise. “It’s hard for me because these days I feel lazy that I’m no longer working out 6 hours a day. But I get an hour or hour and a half of some sort of activity every day,” says May-Treanor. She’ll go for a walk or take a Pilates or spin class. “I’ll kidnap my sister-in-law’s dog and go for a long walk.”
Get twisted. “I really enjoy yoga. It introduced me to focusing on spending time for myself and easing my mind to be ready for daily activities.”
“Foods can also be a cold sore trigger for me,” says May-Treanor.
Indulging in foods that are salty or acidic tends to lead to cold sores popping up. “I try to steer clear of acidic foods like orange juice or grapefruits. We have an orange tree in yard so I might squeeze some now and then. But I’m careful not to overindulge in juice because the acid hurts my teeth and causes a cold sore. If I have too many salt and vinegar chips I will start to feel a cold sore come on.”
May-Treanor says it’s tough to conceal a cold sore.
“There are concealers which might help after you apply medicine,” she says. May-Treanor is a spokesperson for the over-the-counter cold sore remedy, Abreva.
“I’ve had make-up piled on for a photo shoots, too. But it can be a pain to try to cover up.”
Her advice: be natural. “The make-up and concealer constantly needs to be reapplied so that doesn’t look right. I think it’s often better to look natural, unless you’re able to constantly be re-doing it.”
May-Treanor’s match-winning advice for dealing with cold sores? Treat them. Don’t pick them.
“I have some scars on my lips from when I’ve picked off the scab. Treat them at the first sign and prevent cold sores from getting to that bleeding, scabbed over point.”
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