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09th Nov 2012

Ask The GloHealth Doctor – Your Health Questions Answered

Have you got a health concern on your mind? Every week we'll be tackling the health concerns of readers with the help of our GloHealth Doctor, Doctor Conor Fitzgerald.

Have you got a health concern you’d like some advice on? We’ve got our GloHealth Doctor, Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, on hand every week to answer your questions.* This week he’s talking about coldsores and vitamins for the winter…

“Hi Doctor, I’d never had a coldsore before but last week I got one on the side of my lip, I don’t know how or why. I’d love to know a little bit more about them. I’ve been keeping it clean and putting cream on it but does this mean I’ll always get them now?”

Hi and thanks for your question, here are the facts I usually tell my patients about cold sores. 

Cold sores are tiny, fluid filled lesions that occur on and around your lips. 

These blisters are often grouped together in patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms over the resulting sore. They usually heal within 2 weeks. Cold sores spread from person to person through close personal contact, for example kissing. Cold sores are caused by a a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).

You are probably using an anti-viral cream at present such as acyclovir. In more severe cases of cold sores oral antiviral treatment may be required. 

Recurrence can be a problem. Recurrent cold sores usually affect the same location as the initial outbreak. They are generally less severe than the primary infections and the associated symptoms are often absent. Sores tend to be smaller, less painful, and of shorter duration, resolving in an average of 5 days. Though it must be said that some people will not experience recurrence. Recurrent cold sores tend to occur at a compromising time in your life when your immunity is lowered such as times of stress, or illness. Hope this information is helpful.

“Dear Doctor, myself and my family are taking cod liver oil tablets coming into the winter. I read an article on Vitamin D a couple of weeks ago in the paper and how Irish people are at a severe disadvantage to getting their proper dose of Vitamin D in the winter-time. My kids are 12 and 14 and they are taking one every morning along with myself and my husband. Is this too much? And are there any other vitamins we should be taking? We eat quite healthily and all play sports and are quite fit. Thank you.”

Hi and thanks for your questions. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D; however since Ireland is situated between latitude 51 and 55 ºN, little vitamin D formation via the skin occurs between October and March. The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D in Ireland is 0-10µg, depending on how much sunlight you obtain. If you all play sports (which is great!) it is likely you are obtaining some vitamin D. 

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommend the implementation of Vitamin D supplementation to all infants aged 0-12 months. Good sources for babies include Vitamin D drops if solely breastfed; infant formula and follow on milks also contain vitamin D. Elderly people who do not get sufficient sun along with poor dietary intake, those who cover themselves for religious or cultural reasons, as well as patients who have kidney disease or malabsorption conditions are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. I’m not sure if you or your family fall into those categories, however this information should be beneficial to other readers. 

Vitamin supplements in general will not do any harm (unless you have certain medical conditions) however they may not be necessary for everyone.  If you have a healthy mixed diet it is likely you are receiving the correct amount of vitamins through your diet. It is possible to test for vitamin D levels to check if there is a deficiency.

If you and your family are taking vitamin supplements be sure to follow the instructions and take only the correct age-related dose.

If you’ve got a question you want to put to our GloHealth Doctor, just drop us a mail to [email protected] – all emails will be treated in the strictest confidence.

*If you have ongoing concerns about your symptoms, please contact your GP

Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, GloHealth Medical Council


Dr. Conor Fitzgerald studied medicine at UCD, worked in Naas General Hospital and also in the Adelaide & Meath hospital, incorporating the National Childrens’ Hospital, (AMNCH) Tallaght. He trained on the Mid Leinster GP Training Scheme and worked as a GP in Wicklow. Dr. Fitzgerald is currently working in GP practice in Lucan, Co.Dublin.