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Recommended Cold Sore Remedies

Updated on April 26, 2011

There are literally dozens of cold sore remedies available to the estimated 145 million Americans who suffer from Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1), or "Oral Herpes" as it is sometimes called. Treatments range from a wide variety of home remedies, to over-the-counter medicines, to prescription drugs.

Regardless of which treatment you eventually choose, it is important to be aware that it will not cure you of the herpes virus responsible for cold sores. Furthermore, answering the question "which one is best?", is a thoroughly subjective process, and its answer is dependent upon the specific circumstances of the individual involved.

Hopefully, this article can help point you in the right direction to find the oral herpes treatment that best suits you. It is important to remember, however, that none of the remedies discussed herein will eliminate the HSV-1 virus from your body. What they can do, is effectively reduce the severity and duration of your cold sore outbreaks.

Leading Home Remedies

As you may have already discovered, any search engine query regarding "home remedies for cold sores" will produce nearly endless results. For this reason, it would be impractical to discuss every possible home remedy in this article, so we will instead focus only on those remedies that are widely recognized among physicians. The following list represents those home remedies that are known to reduce pain caused by cold sores, and accelerate their healing:

* Any mouth wash that contains baking soda

* Compression with a wet, cool towel

* L-lysine pills (1,500 mg - 3,000 mg/day) or ointment

* Topically applying Vitamin E to the cold sores

* Zinc tablets (max. 60 mg/day during outbreaks) and Zinc Oxide topical cream

* Taking Ibuprofen or Tylenol (not recommended for those under age 20)

Leading Over-the-Counter Cold Sore Remedies

You'll find a wide range of creams and topical ointments designed specifically for treating cold sores at your local drug store. While each brand has its relative strengths and weaknesses in comparison to its competition, none have been proven unequivocally superior to the others. There are, however, ingredients contained within certain products that have been proven highly effective at lessening the symptoms of cold sores. Therefore, any topical ointment or cold sore cream you purchase should contain one of the following:

* Docosanol 10%

* Benzocaine 5% - 20%

* Lidocaine 0.5% - 4%

* Tetracaine 2%

* Dibucaine 0.25% - 1%

Cold Sore Remedies Available by Prescription

Should your cold sore outbreaks produce symptoms severe enough that you need to see a physician, you will be prescribed either pills or a topical cream. Pills are generally considered to be the more effective of these two options at reducing the severity and duration of symptoms, while ointments give quicker (albeit, shorter-term) relief to immediate discomfort caused by cold sores.

The following FDA-approved drugs are available in prescription pill form:

* Acyclovir (Zovirax)

* Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

* Famciclovir (Famvir)

Regardless of which of the aforementioned cold sore remedies you decide to use, keep in mind that you will only be treating the symptoms of the HSV-1 infection - not eliminating the virus itself. On the bright side, as is the case with all herpes viral infections, the frequency and severity of future outbreaks will diminish over time as your body's immune system builds up a tolerance to the virus.

Learn more about this subject at and other herpes-related issues on Devin Brindinshire's site


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    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Very informative.