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Stages of a Cold Sore Scab

Updated on June 9, 2015

Cold sores are never fun. They are painful and unattractive—not to mention that they tend to stick around for a little while. Here are the eight stages of a cold sore scab so that you can get an idea of how far along you are in the healing process and how much longer it will take to heal.

1: The Latent Stage

You won't be able to notice this stage. At the beginning of the cold sore cycle, the herpes simplex virus stays dormant in your nerve ganglia until it finally becomes a virulent and appears. You can have a dormant virus for a while before it decides to show up.

2: The Prodrome Stage

The prodrome stage is when you feel an itch or tingle in the spot where the cold sore is about to appear. This happens because the virus has begun to move from the nerves to your skin while reproducing. Like other stages of a cold sore scab, this one can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days before developing into the next stage.

3: The Inflammation Stage

This part of the cycle is when you'll start to see redness and swelling on your lip.

4: The Pre-Sore Stage

Here's an interesting fact: Although most people believe that a cold sore is a big blister, it is actually a number of smaller blisters that are close together and very sensitive.

5: The Open-Sore Stage

The open-sore scab is the most contagious and painful stage. The blisters have a tendency to break, then start draining, becoming hard to control. You may get a fever and feel pain in your lymph nodes and the actual sore. However, it's important not to touch the fluid that is draining because it's contagious and could be spread to other parts of your body. It usually takes 7 to ten days for the open-sore stage to pass.

6: The Crusting Stage

This is the stage in which you get your actual scab, the yellowish and crusty protection over the sore that takes the place of all that yellow fluid. It may still hurt, but be aware that this is the sign that you are beginning to heal. During this stage, you want to be careful to avoid moving your lips too much. Too much movement can cause the scab to crack, which is truly painful.

7: The Healing Stage

Healing—what a great word. There's nothing you want to hear more when talking about the stages of a cold sore scab. Once you have that scab, you'll find that the sore is going to start healing from the inside outward. What does that mean? It means that while the wound is healing and your scab is shrinking, you will notice some itching. The virus will retreat to the jaw, where it will remain dormant once more, and your skin will heal.

8: The Post-Scab Stage

This is the last and best stage. By this point, you should have almost complete relief, although you may still have a red spot as the sore continues to heal. After two weeks at the most, you'll be fine.


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      Kyle 24 months ago

      I'm on the post scab healing phase of my 3rd cold swore ever, I'm 26 years old male. Today is the morning of day 4. I read online a few remedies and this is what I did. I felt the tingle stage with a very small red bump where it was going to form and I soaked apple cider vinegar on it immediately, I froze 2 big metal knives and when finished I put the butt end and held it on the area until they thawed, it was really cold! After that it started forming 5 hours later and I swapped out the vinegar for nail polish remover (acetone) and popped the blisters and gave it hell, it burns but be a man, repeat the acetone every so often until your sure the blisters are done forming sometime some appear slower than others which happened in my case to I popped the last and gave em hell again. Day 2 it was a scab by the time I woke up and nasty looking, I read not to pick it off so I showered to soften it, Then wiped the scap off with heavy pressure with a towel,it hurt again but be a man (prolly a bad method) but it got me to the actual swore and now it was time to use hydrogen peroxide to sterilize it and then applied Carmex for cold swores. Every 30-1 hour I dab a drop or peroxide and let it sit until it stops burning and then dry and apply Carmex. Day 3 I have been repeating this step ever since and it just looks like my lip is missing a small layer of skin like an extremely minor rugburn in a very small area (smaller than a pinky nail) noticeable but doesn't look like a cold swore. It is nearly finished healing. I never used l-lysine or any other over the counter stuff. Just basic whatever i could find in my house that was on the list I read, so I tried like all of them but hey, the morning of day 4 and it may be has 1-3 days until it is not even noticable. I hope this helps somebody and I hope I never have to come back to this page again for closure.

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      Sabina Rummer 2 years ago

      hemoform serum is a very nice treatment. I had persistent cold sores problem. Even when I did not have cold sores, my lip had that tingling sensation indicating that the virus is still present. Just using this ointment a few times cleared that problem completely. Shipping was fast too.

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      Brittany 3 years ago

      Just use alcohol & peroxide to dry it up...... then if u can get some Abreva.... I swear 4 days tops n it will b gone..... I did it n on the 2nd day It was scabbed up..... on the 4th day the scab was falling off..... this is all u need to do......

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      alli 5 years ago

      I got a cold sore yesterday morning and read some stuff online so I put salt on it repeatedly and pressed ice on it and it scabbed the next day. Now how long is it gonna take for the scab to go away??

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      Fraser 5 years ago

      Mine go on for like a week but now I have tablets for them and I have special plasters

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      sharon 5 years ago

      i've gotten cold sores once or twice a year for as long as i can remember and they used to always get ugly and scabby. But for the last few years, when I start getting one it's just red and painful but never comes open or scabs, it just goes away. Occasionally there will be fluid inside and i will pop it with a sterile needle and dab it with alcohol every hour or two and it doesn't scab.

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      Brooklyn 5 years ago

      i have a scab on mine how long will it take for it to be competely gone and if i have a scab is it still contaguouis

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      Gary 5 years ago

      I have a scab on mine is it still contagious?

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      Been there 5 years ago

      I used to get these every couple of months. I started using HL-30 (or Herpecin L) as a daily lip balm and now I only get one once or twice a year. If I apply extra on a routine basis once I feel the tingle, a lot of times I never even get a blister. You can find it at any drug store in the lip balm section. Taking L-lysine straight helps too. I usually take 1000mg twice a day. Again...any drug store in the vitamin section. Good luck!

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      hope this helps 5 years ago

      I have been getting then for years and I have tried everything over the counter and even stuff from the doc .. but I can tell u an over the counter inexpensive way to heal in in about a week ..

      If its just starting to itch and burn go put a piece of ice on it.

      Then get to a gnc or health store and get pure aloe vera ..I like the cream, but there is gel to.

      This should stop it from forming.

      But if its to late..get some rubbing alcohol the highest % u can I get 91% .. then when the sore forms into blisters and there full get a clean needle and lots of q tips ... Be really careful cuz the liquid in the blisters is the virus and its highly contagious.

      Pop the little blisters ..don't like straight in it at an upward motion... Then press a q tip agaist it to drain it.

      Then cover a q tip with alcohol and rub it on the sore... It gonna hurt I won't lie .. but it will dry it out really fast have to keep doing it all day as much as possible .... Then use the aloe cream to heal it and keep it from blossoming ... The aloe soak in fast tho so reply as much as possible.

      You should take L-lysine pills 3,000 mg during a break out. But one pill a day will keep them away. At night I put a l-lysine ointment on it (gmc or health store) to protect it overnight.

      I really hope this helps someone..

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      help me 5 years ago

      im am at the crusting stage i think, right now its not oozingg anymore but the yellowish healing stage isn't crusting...i am putting a moistureizer on it..should i keep doing that?

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      ash 5 years ago

      Notice mine the saturday. Applied salt to it evry two hours the sunday scabbed monday die to constant salt putting looked terrible when it was oozing yellow dried up tuesday. Putting tropical cream on i dabbed it and the scab cameoff with some yellow looks like it not finish healing still yet hoping it get done asoon as possible

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      KC 5 years ago

      Got one late Sunday night. Put chap stick on it till Monday morning. Went and got OTC abreva and applied it about every 30 minutes. Started drinking emergen-c. My mom gave Me vitamin D pills and an antibiotic for when it became an open sore. It started weeping Monday afternoon after constant abreva and icing (ice for about 20 minutes at a time). Tuesday was a full on ulcer still fairly swollen and intensely painful. Still using all of the above treatments. Today, (Wednesday) swelling is none and a scab is present. I've noticed that the scab is getting smaller. It fell off once after the shower and now I'm leaving it alone besides still using abreva. No longer have to ice

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      Aye 5 years ago

      I use Zovirax and the scab will be gone in a week with the redness left for another 2 days.

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      J la 5 years ago

      I find when in beginning stages I put rubbing alcohol on blister. It starts to dry it up real fast

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      Help 5 years ago

      Apply apple cider vinegar, it hurts like a b!&@$ but boy does it help to dry it out. Along it's that l-lysine helps tremendously. Also lysine cream after the vinegar.

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      Katy B 6 years ago

      i got tea tree oil and used carmex and it went threw the stages in a week.

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      Mona 6 years ago

      I had one bout three weeks ago and I still have a red mark on my lip.. I've tried everything I've read it wouldn't scar but I think it has I've been putting a scar cream on it to see if that will help. Any suggestions??

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      babygirl 6 years ago

      Take the actual l lysine pill wet it on one end and rub it on the fever blister it will speed healing and be sure to take a 1,000 mg of l lysine a day even after your healed it will keep u from getting fever blister again....also I love carmex to put on the sore on my lip...but be sure the carmex you buy says on the container for cold sores or it wont work....

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      Rebecca 6 years ago

      Valtrex has been wonderful. I get them usually about twice a year, when I get a virus/cold or sometimes just under stress I will get sick from one. But the valtrex helps get rid of them to scab in about 2 days. Ask your doctors if it will work for you.

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      Ashley 6 years ago

      I just got the cold sore like on Wednesday & today is Friday But on the tip of some of the little blisters it looks kind of yellowish & crusty. Does that mean its healing fast? Please please help I'm starting school in like 3 days & I'm scared of getting made fun of:( so please help answer my question!!

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      Jt 6 years ago

      I always get them atlest once a year I've heard the lysine tablets help maintain them but now I have one and have had it for about 3 days I dab a little alcohol on it every hour and now it's scabbing

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      lf 6 years ago

      I have had great luck with clear calamine gel. As soon as all those little blisters pop, I put a thin layer of it on there and it dries it up and keeps it from oozing everywhere. It also sort of makes a little protective (clear!) barrier. I got a cold sore the day before a huge gala I've been looking forward to attending, and I applied ice a few times, popped several L-Lysine tablets, and used the calamine gel. A little concealer, some long-wear lipstick, and voila! It wasn't noticeable at all! It's healing really quickly now, already in the scab phase just 2 days later. I just need to avoid picking, which will be tough!

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      jes 6 years ago

      Is there any way to speed it up ive had it for almost a week now.buts its just in the yellowesh crust stage.

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      Cm 6 years ago

      dabbing hydrogen peroxide on it speeds up the time tremendously as well

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      Somiyah 6 years ago

      I got a cold sore a day or so before school started, and I just put ice on it every hour or so and it dried up and scabbed i. Just a day or so! Ice really helps a lot if you just melt a couple ice cubes against it, it stops itching and swelling and the sore dries up very quickly.

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      TheHealthGuru 6 years ago

      Everyone is different but for most it does take 10 to 14 days.

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      Js 6 years ago

      It usually doesn't take 2 weeks, just leave it alone don't put anything on it and in about 8-9 days it should be gone

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      Aminah 7 years ago

      does it really take up to 2 weeks ?

      i have one right now and i have had it for 7 days..!

      its scabbed up but still ugly and yellowy scab and its been 7 days so does that mean i have to wait another 7 days for it to go!! ??