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Effective Cold Sore Remedies to Reduce Pain and Speed Healing

Updated on August 2, 2011
As she looks in the mirror, she thinks, "Oh no, not another cold sore. No kisses for me!"
As she looks in the mirror, she thinks, "Oh no, not another cold sore. No kisses for me!"

Cold Sore on the Lip


Nothing can affect self-confidence like an unsightly, oozing cold sore on your lips Cold sores are small, painful sores on the lips or around the mouth. Also called fever blisters, they are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Between 30% to 60% of children under 10 are infected with HSV-1. By the time an adult reaches 50, approximately 80% to 90% are infected. They are usually transmitted by kissing. Even though there is no cure, fortunately, there are many effective cold sore remedies to ease the pain and the extent of an outbreak.

Some people confuse cold sores and canker sores. Although researchers do not understand what causes canker sores, more than likely, they are caused by some sort of bacteria or virus. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are open sores that develop on the mucous membranes in the mouth. However, they are not contagious.

Understanding the Herpes Virus

There are two types of the virus: Herpes Simplex I and Herpes Simplex II. The viruses are almost identical except Herpes Simplex I usually occurs above the waist whereas Herpes Simplex II usually occurs below the waist. Unfortunately, the virus is interchangeable between the two parts of the body. If the virus type does interchange, they are usually less severe. Research has shown that 77% of cold sores are caused by Herpes Simplex I while 23% are caused by Herpes Simplex II.

The virus enters the body through a break in the skin from contact with an infected person. In response to the virus, the body develops antibodies. Consequently, the virus remains dormant in a nerve ganglia nearby the cold sore site unless something triggers it. However, if something triggers the virus or weakens the immune system, the virus travels into a nearby nerve cell on the surface and replicates itself. When the cell becomes full, it breaks open and gives birth to cold sores. Thus, pain is created because the cold sore is right on the surface of the nerve cell. When a reoccurence happens, the sores appear in the same place. If the sores appear at another site, the person has been infected another time.

Stages of a Cold Sore

The Development of a Cold Sore

Cold Sore Remedies

Unlike many advertisments claim, there is no cure for the herpes virus. However, there are different treatments designed to speed up the healing time, lessen symptoms, reduce the size and number of blisters, and reduce viral shedding. Some medications, if taken soon enough, can even prevent cold sores from developing. The treatments can be home remedies, over-the-counter treatments, and prescribed medications.

Home Remedies

  • Research from England found many people who suffer from cold sores are deficient in vitamin B12. Take 250 mcg. of B12 daily.
  • The ratio of the amino acids, arginine and lysine play a role in controlling cold sores. Apparently, arginine aids the growth and reproduction of the virus while lysine inhibits. Therefore, avoid foods with arginine and eat more foods with lysine. Foods to avoid are chocolate, nuts, grains, peas, seeds, and whole-wheat products. Foods high in lysine are chicken, turkey, many types of fish, and some game meat. Lysine can also be bought in supplement form.
  • Avoid acidic foods - These include tomatoes, citrus foods, meat, corn, most grains, distilled water, and other foods.
  • Cold sores may indicate a calcium deficiency. Therefore, you may wish take a calcium supplement.
  • Eat yogurt. The probiotics in yogurt fight the infection.
  • Apply teabags
  • Apply aloe vera
  • Apply honey. Supposedly, no germ or virus can survive in honey.
  • Apply fresh garlic
  • Apply ice cubes to the area for 30 minutes.
  • Apply warm compresses
  • Rinse mouth with water and baking soda
  • Clean sores with hydrogen peroxide

Over-the-counter Medications

  • Use ointments - Lidocaine or Zilactin (benzyl alcohol) can reduce discomfort.
  • Docosanol (Abreva)
  • Pain Relievers - Using acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirn can reduce pain.

Prescribed Medications

  • Penciclover 1% cream (Denavir) - Taken every two hours for four days, it can reduce the symptoms by 2 days. It also reduces viral shedding. The earlier this medication is started, the better the results.
  • Topical Acyclovir (Zovirax) - Taken according to directions, this cream reduced healing time by 1/2 day.
  • Oral Acyclovir - Using low doses of this medication, it reduced healing time by 1/2 day but did not affect pain. If a slightly higher dose is administered during the prodomal stage, both healing time and pain were reduced.
  • Famciclovir (Famvir) - Taking one 1,500 mg. dose during the prodomal stage reduced healing time by two days.
  • Oral Valacyclovir (Valtrex) - Taking 2 grams twice a day for one day when symptoms first appear reduced healing time by a little more than one day.
  • Suppression therapy - Taking medication everyday to prevent reoccurences has not been approved by the FDA. However, a study showed that people who had six or more reoccurences per year reduced the number of reoccurences and viral shedding by taking 400 mg. of Acyclovir twice a day.

*Avoid squeezing or picking any sore.

Tips to Prevent Cold Sores

To prevent the herpes virus, avoid things that trigger the virus. Triggers are:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Chapped lips - Use lip moisturizers.
  • Menstruation
  • Sunlight - Avoid overexposure to the sun and uv lamps. Use a lip balm sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15.
  • Fever
  • Skin trauma
  • Laser skin treatment
  • Avoid coffee
  • Avoid acidic foods - Tomatoes, citrus foods, soda, and products containing vinegar.
  • Avoid kissing or oral sex if either you or your partner have cold sores.
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils and towels with an infected person.
  • If you already have cold sores, avoid touching other parts of your body since the virus can be transferred. Unfortunately, the virus can be transferred to unexpected locations like the eyes in addition to the genitals.
  • If you already have cold sores, wash your hands frequently to prevent transmission.
  • Avoid a lack of sleep


If you suffer from cold sores, you understand the pain and stigma associated with them. When those ugly, oozing sores appear, they are the first thing another person notices. Not only are they embarrassing, but it puts the breaks on intimacy. Even worse yet, you can't even kiss your children because of the fear you will transfer it to them. Although you can't do anything to eliminate them for good, you can try to prevent the factors that aggravate them, and use healing salves when you have an outbreak.

Take Lysine everyday to prevent and reduce cold sores.


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      cassidy 6 years ago

      i get cold sores very easly mostly when the wether changes and i do ,do a lot of reserch to try and prevent thim and or stop thim. my most recamended thing to use is ice for 20~30 minutes ,tea bags also relave pain and helps cure aslo use peroxside and campho phenique GOOD LUCK