Best Treatment Options for Cold Sore

There’s no cure for cold sores. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body. The sores themselves usually heal on their own in 1 or 2 weeks. Antiviral medications can speed healing and make symptoms less painful, especially if you take them at the first sign of an outbreak. Cold sore treatments include:

  • Medications: You can buy topical creams or ointments that you apply directly to the cold sore. Creams that you can apply on the sores include Acyclovir (Zovirax) and penciclovir (Denavir) by prescription, or docosanol (Abreva); over the counter. If you start using these creams when you first notice tingling or itching — before the cold sore forms — you may be able to prevent the cold sore from appearing.
  • Oral antiviral medicine: Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication that you take orally (by mouth). Pills that you swallow incude acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex). You need a prescription to get these.
  • Intravenous (IV) antiviral medicine: If other medications aren’t working, your doctor may need to prescribe an antiviral medication that will be administered through an IV. In severe cases, cidofovir (Vistide) or foscarnet (Foscavir) can be used. Acyclovir can also been injected. In this case, your doctor will monitor you closely throughout treatment.

Some home remedies can help you feel better while you heal:

  • Cold, damp compresses
  • Avoid acidic foods: Orange juice, tomatoes and other acidic foods can aggravate a cold sore.
  • Pain medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Cream painkillers with benzocaine or lidocaine
  • Treatments with alcohol to dry out the blisters
  • Lip balms and creams with sunscreen to keep moisture in. Look for SPF on the label.

Treatment can reduce your risk of spreading the virus to others. Treatment is highly recommended if you get a cold sore and have:

  • Atopic dermatitis (usually begins in childhood and is often called eczema)
  • Sores near your eyes
  • A lot of cold sores
  • A lot of pain
  • Sores that spread to another part of your body, such as your hands or genitals
  • HIV, AIDS, cancer, or another disease that weakens your immune system
  • Cancer and are getting chemotherapy
  • To take medication that suppresses your immune system, such as medicine to control severe psoriasis or prevent organ rejection
  • Cold sores frequently
  • An outbreak that lasts more than two weeks

It’s important to treat cold sores if you have any of the above because the cold sores may not go away without treatment. Left untreated, the virus that causes cold sores can spread to other parts of your body. Some people develop another illness and become very sick.