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 7 to 10 days. Those 7 to 10 days can be brutal, but you may find comfort in home remedies and natural treatments.

About 67 percent of adults worldwide test positive for the virus that causes cold sores. Most of these people will likely never show symptoms, but some may deal with recurring flare-ups.

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 flare-up within just a few days. The initial flare-up can be the worst, accompanied by:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • aches and pains
  • headache

But the virus doesn’t leave the body after the initial flare-up. It simply remains dormant in your nerve cells. So, flare-ups can occur at any time and are triggered by things like:

  • stress
  • hormonal fluctuations
  • surgery
  • fevers
  • illness
  • sun exposure

But while cold sore flare-ups can be unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to calm or shorten the duration of a flare-up.

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

The antiviral properties of lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, may help reduce the redness or discoloration and swelling associated with a blister, or protect against future infections — at least according to a 1994 study.

Use a lip balm with at least 1 percent lemon balm. Or, as an alternative, a compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) may provide similar benefits.

Products containing docosanol or benzyl alcohol can be helpful in reducing the duration of the cold sore. Lysine is available as an oral supplement and a cream that, according to a 1987 study, may be helpful in reducing the duration of flare-ups.

Ice will likely not reduce the duration of a flare-up, but it can ease the discomfort and inflammation of cold sores. Apply a cold pack directly to the sores for temporary relief.

Aloe vera gel is widely available and you can grow it as a houseplant. While research connecting the plant to cold sores is limited, one in vitro 2016 study showed that its anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects could have inhibitory effects.

Sunscreen not only protects your lips while the cold sore is healing, but it can also reduce future flare-ups when wearing it daily on the lips. Look for at least SPF 30, and apply it whenever you expect to be in the sun.

Because stress can cause the herpes virus to come out of dormancy, reducing the amount of stress in your life as best you can, might be one way to prevent cold sores.

Meditation and regular exercise are techniques you can try that may help lower stress. As you work on these, try to remember that everyone has different abilities and experience levels. So, feel free to give yourself some grace.

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

Cold sores will 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 flare-ups a year, you can even take oral antiviral medication year-round to prevent flare-ups altogether. These treatments include:

  • acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • famciclovir (Famvir)
  • penciclovir (Denavir)

Does toothpaste help cure cold sores?

A lot of toothpaste brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can help dry out blisters. But the evidence suggesting that toothpaste can cure cold sores is only anecdotal.

What kills cold sores naturally?

Cold sores tend to go away on their own, but some home remedies such as the ones listed above might be helpful in treating cold sores naturally.

How do you heal a cold sore quickly?

Cold sores typically go away on their own, but some prescription treatments may help cold sores to go away more quickly. They can include:

  • acyclovir
  • valacyclovir
  • famciclovir
  • penciclovir

By using these home remedies, reducing stress, and keeping healthy, you may be able to lessen the likelihood of future flare-ups and the pain that usually accompanies them.