The 7 Best Cold Sore Remedies

Medically reviewed by Sarah Taylor, MD on April 14, 2017Written by Anna Schaefer on February 10, 2015

Overview

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 usually a symptom of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), though HSV-2 can also cause cold sores. 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 duration of a cold sore outbreak.

Cold sore vs. pimple: Telling the difference »

Try these home remedies, but be aware that they may not help everyone. Prescription antiviral medications are far more effective for both treatment and prevention of cold sore outbreaks.

1. Lemon balm

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, may help reduce the redness and swelling associated with a blister. However, symptoms such as pain and scabbing did not improve with lemon balm. Most research suggests using a lip balm with at least one percent lemon balm. As an alternative, a compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) may provide similar benefits. Lemon balm may also help protect against future outbreaks.

2. Over-the-counter antiviral medications

Products containing docosanol or benzyl alcohol can be helpful in reducing the duration of the cold sore.

3. 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.

4. 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 soothing the skin when a cold sore breaks out. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful.

5. Sunscreen

Sunscreen not only protects your lips while the cold sore is healing, but it can also reduce future outbreaks when worn daily on the lips. Look for at least SPF 30, and apply it whenever you expect to be in the sun. Get ready for the sun with these sunscreens from Amazon.

6. 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.

10 Simple ways to reduce stress »

7. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen

Both of these medications can help ease the pain associated with a cold sore.

Prescription treatments

Cold sores will you usually go away on their own after a few days, but there are several prescription treatments that can help speed up that healing time. If you experience several outbreaks a year, you can even take oral antiviral medication all year round to prevent outbreaks altogether. These treatments include:

Takeaway

By using these home remedies, reducing stress and keeping healthy, you can lessen the likelihood of future breakouts and the pain that often accompanies them.

Read more: Can babies get cold sores? »

Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.

CMS Id: 78850