How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore

Cold Sore Causes and Remedies

Jan 4, 2018
Avoid Cold Sores


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Cold sores can be a real pain in the… lip. Learn what causes cold sores and some natural cold sore remedies.

What are Cold Sores?

First of all, if you have a cold sore, you are not alone. Cold sores are VERY common.

In 2015, the World Health Organization published research estimating that two-thirds of people under age 50—approximately 3.7 billion of us—are infected with something called “herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV–1).”

In other words: If you’ve got a cold sore, you have HSV-1, but the rest of us probably have HSV-1, too!

Don’t worry. It’s not what you think when you hear the word, “herpes.” The “HSV-1” is the virus that causes cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters. (The closely related herpes simplex–2 [HSV–2] is the main cause of genital herpes, not HSV-1.)

Symptoms of Cold Sores

Do you know the symptoms of a cold sore? An outbreak usually begins with a tingle, pinch, or itch on the lip, the edge of the mouth, or around the nose.

The site soon erupts with small, somewhat painful blisters that are about as unattractive as a blemish. Typically, the sores weep a bit, then dry up before disappearing within a couple of weeks. (In very rare instances, HSV-1 can infect the eye, which requires immediate medical attention.)

Photo Credit: Harvard Health Publications/Harvard University

By the way, don’t confuse a cold sore with canker sores or angular cheilitis, a painful crack at the corner of the mouth. Both of those are non-contagious. Find out more about canker sores.

Cold sores are not only common, but also highly contagious.

What Causes Cold Sores?

People usually contract HSV–1 through small cuts in their skin as a result of contact with the cold sore fluid of an infected person—such as by kissing or sharing personal items (e.g., towels, razors, makeup, eating utensils, toothbrush), even shaking hands. However, it can also be acquired when the carrier has no symptoms.

Some people suffer recurrent infections: After the initial manifestation, the virus lies latent in nerves and may re-emerge in times of stress or in response to, for example, dental surgery, hormonal changes, medications, and even allergies.

How to Avoid Getting or Spreading Cold Sores

  • Avoid direct skin contact (including sexual) with people who have visible blisters. 
  • Don’t shake hands, either.
  • Don’t share eating utensils, toothbrushes, towels, makeup (ever).
  • Wash your hands often, especially before touching a baby, a frail elder, or a sick person.
  • Wash your hands carefully (always) before handling food, dinnerware, or serving utensils.  
  • To prevent spreading the virus to another part of your body, wash thoroughly if your hands have come in contact with your cold sore.

Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Getting Rid of Cold Sores: Home Remedies

There is no cure for cold sores, at least not one that medical research has discovered.

However, a host of medicine for cold sores and natural remedies for cold sores may alleviate symptoms and also shorten the duration of an outbreak or lessen recurrences of the virus.

Here are a few:

  • Monolaurin, long an ingredient in foods and body-care products, is a natural constituent of coconut oil and so deemed safe. As a supplement, it can be helpful for preventing frequent outbreaks; work with your physician to develop the proper dosing strategy and monitor your progress while you take it.
  • Stress reduction/management such as regular exercise, getting out into natural settings, and meditation may help keep cold sores at bay.
  • An ice pack applied directly to the lesions may lessen pain. Learn more about when to use ice packs for pain.
  • Zinc oxide ointment applied topically at the first sensations of an impending outbreak may shorten its duration and lessen the symptoms.
  • Salve or lip balm containing at least 1 percent lemon balm may provide symptomatic relief.
  • Sunscreen applied liberally to the face and around and on lips before going outside may help. (Sunlight seems to activate HSV-1 in some people.)
  • Research shows that topical application aloe vera gel may alleviate symptoms and shorten the duration of genital herpes lesions. Learn more about the uses of aloe vera.

Cold sores can be frustrating, but hopefully these natural cold sore remedies will help you to get rid of them. Do you have any trusty cold sore remedies? Let us know below!

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's re-learning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better healthier lives.

Reader Comments

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St John’s Wort oil

St John’s Wort oil is the best treatment I’ve used for cold sores. At the first tingling I dab the oil on the spot & I don’t even get an eruption. If I don’t get SJW oil on it right away & the sore becomes advanced, the oil still soothes the pain & helps it heal faster without the prolonged evidence or scarring afterward.

As gross and weird as it sounds - Your own Pee

Yep. It works. I learned this second hand through a girl that had severe outbreaks all around her mouth and several times a year. It was before abreva, etc. and a Nurse finally pulled her aside and clued her in.
I didn't have as bad, but would get many throughout the year and was desperate so I tried it too. Works like a charm.
So, the instant you feel that tingle, just take a dab of your own pee and touch it on there. Generally the blister won't surface although you may get a little scab as though it had. You can do this two or three times and probably have it gone before it starts. If you feel that tingle and blow it off and wake up with the blister, you can still do it and keep it from spreading usually, and it will dry up quicker than it normally would.
I've been doing this for thirty years and thank God I learned it. Abreva is great but expensive. If you have a massive breakout, you may need it.
Also, I take the L-Lysine and don't really get them much anymore which i attribute to that and Sam-E mood regulators. Lower stress keeps them at bay. and always try to remember to protect your lips in wind, sun, cold - pretty much always. But don't like camphor because it drys out your lips and could cause them, too - I believe.
Anyway, most of you won't try this, but those that do will probably be glad they did. Remember just a slight dab on the spot. Good luck because those of us that can get them bad need relief!

urine therapy

Although I’ve seen some references to this interesting cold-core treatment in various home-remedy blogs, I can’t find similar references in the professional medical or folk-remedy literature.

However, Dr. Andrew Weil offers this piece on urine therapy, mentioning that skin applications of urine “may help in some cases and usually don’t cause any harm.” So, it may be safe, and even healing, to keep dabbing.

B12 for Prevention

If I take B-12 every day, I no longer get cold sores.

Fever blisters

Use tea tree oil at the first tingle. Apply throughout the day and at night. It works!

Cold Sore Relief

I use puremedy cold sore relief. I have been using this product for awhile and it works like a charm for me. I get this product from my local Natural Market.

Cold Sore Remedy

When I feel the tingle of a cold sore I take fresh garlic and cut it open and rub the spot. I leave it on for 15 minutes then wash it off. You will feel a light burning or stinging. I do this every couple of hours. My cold sore will be gone in 2 days sometimes less if I catch when the tingle starts.


Good suggestion! Garlic is known to contain many antibiotic compounds. It’s safe, too. Thanks for letting us know it works for you.

Cold Sore Remedy

I have a tried and true remedy. Take a 1000 mcg of the vitamin supplement "L-Lysine". on the first dose. It will prevent the cold sores from emerging if taken daily (at lesser dose) and will dry them up if taken after the sores have erupted.

cures for cold sores

I use Camphor Spirit (alcohol 84%) I've been using this for a while now. It was recommended by
a good friend. It helps me out. I purchase it from my local drug store. I used to take Lysine tablets
and stopped as I was still getting the cold sores.

Oreganol - wild oregano oil

Oregano oil will sting when you put it on, but it's worth it. Cold sores only last 2 days at most when I use it right away. I take it internally now too.

Oregano oil

Hi Jan,

Oregano is a staple culinary herb—one of my favorites—and it has a long history of use as a household remedy.

Indeed, research has revealed that oregano contains many phytocomounds with antibiotic properties, which become concentrated when the leaves are distilled into oregano essential oil. But most all the the research on the potential therapeutic benefits of oregano oil has been carried out in test tubes or rodents, not living humans. 

There’s a big difference between dabbing a bit of an herbal essential oil (diluted with another oil) on a sore and swallowing it. A blog isn’t the place for a full discussion of this topic, especially among non-experts like us, but here’s a paper that offers an expert perspective.

As the writer (a pharmacist) notes, “natural” doesn’t automatically mean safe and effective. 


At the first tingle of a cold sore I grab white raw honey and smear a large dollop onto the spot. Y.S. Honey has proven to be the most effective for me. I heard about this through a magazine 2 years ago - something about the amino acids in honey - and it has really proven to be a life saver! It shortens the life of the cold sore and the outbreaks are never as severe as they have been in the past.

Cold Sores, Herpes Simplex 1 and L-Lysine

L-Lysine is all you need for a herpes outbreak. I don't know about genital herpes but for herpes simplex 1 it works like a dream. If you can catch it early enough it won't 'break out' at all. 1,000 mg 3x a day until it is almost healed. It will not get as bad if it does break. The active period will be the same, 10 days, but will never get that bad and will be much less painful. Any drug store and most grocery stores that sell vitamins will carry it. The pills are big and chalky...take with lots of water. L-Lysine is an amino acid that boosts your own white blood cells to fight the virus. It's like adding super-heroes to your army!


I found that polysporin works very very well in healing the sore quickly.
If you feel that "twang" of the cold sore beginning, use a dab of alcohol or hand sanitizer on the area
( if you caught it early it won't sting,if not it'll sting for a second ( keep that stiff upper lip EH ! ).The reason for this is that you want to dry and sterilize the area, then use Polysporin, It heals the sore very quickly.---- Blistex lip balm ( not a wax based balm ) is a good alternative.
In the tube is first choice.


I have cold sores quite often and L-lysine will help keep a cold sore away. Once a day 500 mg. No longer than 6 mo. at one time though. This does work for me, since I have had this problem even while I was a kid. Diana


L-Lysine is all you need for a herpes outbreak.

Cold sores

I buy a lip balm in a small jar the size of a quarter in diameter called Carmex. I apply it at the first sign of a cold sore and it heals and shortens the duration of the cold sore. I have also been using it once a day and haven't had a cold sore recently.

Cold Sores

Tea Tree Oil will heal these, too.

this information was helpful

this information was helpful to me I will share information to bring about awareness of Cold sores ,Chacker sores

cold sores

WHY does no one ever mention OTC lysine?!?
Its the BEST remedy and preventive of cold sores EVER!

Arbonne had a product called

Arbonne had a product called Lip Service whose primary ingredient was L-lysine, Lip Service would stop the the cold sore and healing would be immediate. Lip Service is no longer available. However, someone told me to spray Lysol on a QTip and rub on the infected area a few times daily. This really works almost as good as the Lip Service.

Lysine, Lysol

Hi Dianne and Eddie,

Thanks for your comments! 

While I know many folks have reported relief from cold sores with lysine, clinical studies have proven inconclusive. A short blog post didn’t seem the place for a full discussion of the topic.

As for the household germicidal, Lysol, I wouldn’t suggest using it. There’s no evidence for its safety and effectiveness, and plenty for its toxicity for medical use.

Cold Sores

Zovirax & Abreva were not mentioned? I try to never leave the house without Zovirax but if I run out and need a new prescription I will purchase Abreva from the drugstore until I can get a renewal.

Lysine is the best over. If I

Lysine is the best over. If I feel a cold sore I double a dose and it's gone the next day.

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