They’re embarrassing and painful. Cold sores appear as blisters — fluid filled pockets beneath the surface of the skin around the mouth or on the lips. They can break open, ooze, and crust over, lasting for around seven to 10 days. Those seven to 10 days can be brutal, but you may find comfort in home remedies and natural treatments.

About 90 percent of adults across the globe test positive for the virus that causes cold sores. Most of these people will likely never show symptoms, but some may deal with recurring breakouts.

Cold sores are actually a symptom of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). When a person first contracts the virus, they will experience a breakout within just a few days. The initial breakout can be the worst, accompanied by a fever, sore throat, aches and pains, and a headache.

But the virus doesn’t leave the body after the initial breakout; it simply remains dormant in your nerve cells.

Flare-ups can occur at any time and are triggered by things like: stress, hormonal fluctuations, surgery, fevers, illness, or sun exposure. But while they can be unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to calm or shorten the length of a cold sore outbreak.

1. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, may help reduce the healing time of a blister and prevent future outbreaks. Most research suggests using a lip balm with at least 1 percent lemon balm. As an alternative, a compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) may provide similar benefits.

2. Lysine

Lysine is an amino acid. You can find it available as a supplement or in cream form. Studies show that taking lysine supplements can help prevent breakouts and prevent future flare-ups. Experts also say that taking lysine supplements regularly can reduce the intensity of flare-ups.

3. Stress Reduction

Because stress can cause the herpes virus to come out of dormancy, reducing the amount of stress in your life is one way to prevent cold sores. Meditation, regular exercise, and avoiding the causes of stress in your life may help.

4. Ice

Ice may not reduce the duration of a breakout, but it can ease the discomfort and inflammation of cold sores. Apply a cold pack directly to the sores for temporary relief.

5. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel is widely available and can be grown as a houseplant. While research connecting the plant to cold sores is limited, studies have found that applying it topically can aid in healing the lesions of genital herpes (HSV-2).

6. Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide creams are readily available at the drug store, and you can also find zinc oxide in some sunscreen. Research shows that applying the cream to the affected area can reduce symptoms like blistering, itching, and soreness. If you apply it within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, it can also shorten the length of an outbreak.

By reducing stress and keeping healthy, you can lessen the likelihood of future breakouts and the pain and embarrassment that often accompany them.