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.)

cold-sore-symptoms.jpg
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.

get-rid-of-cold-sores.jpg
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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HERBAL FORMULA

Do anyone still doubt natural herbs? I've seen the great importance of natural supplements and the wonderful work they have done in people's lives. I wonder why people still spend their money on surgery, injections and drugs each time they are sick. Natural herbs can cure all kinds of illness.
My Herpes virus was totally reverse with natural herbs this year. Earlier this year my sister who lives in New Delhi India Purchased HSV herbal remedy from BEST HEALTH HERBAL CENTRE and they told her that their HSV herbal remedy only takes five weeks to reverse HSV completely, which she didn’t’ believe, but she had no choice than to purchase, because she knew COLD SORES was killing me slowly. When I received the herbal remedy, I only used it for five weeks, it was so shocking to see the outcome, all my cold sore disappeared and my HERPES VIRUS was fully reversed.
I know is hard to believe but am a living testimony, There is no harm in trying natural herbs supplements.

Personal remedy

My tingling feeling started on Sunday, I bought abreva. I applied it apprx 3-4x ( I removed it when it dried and reapplied) and used ice for 10 mins through the day.

On monday, I googled and saw I could add ketchup, I did, this made the “bubbles” appear. Faster in my opinion. Leave/apply the ketchup for about 30 mins, rinse and repeat as it dries. I did this while watching tv.

Tuesday, I added abreva for most of the day, washed my face and my lip area with warm water, and placed ice for 10 mins, the ice “popped” the sore and as I was cleaning with a qtip the skin(sore) came off.

It is now tuesday night and I applied abreva as I go to bed, I believe the scabbing will begin tomorrow. I have already ordered the lip patch (bandage) on amazon.

Always wash your hands and only apply abreva with a qtip.

White,granulated, table sugar stops a cold sore in its tracks

My father used to get bad fever blisters quite often. Years ago an old doctor told him to put plain, white, table sugar on a cold sore site at the first sign of one coming on. The sugar stops any discomfort including tingling, itching and burning. Keeping the sugar on the site for a day or two will stop the cold sore from ever developing into a blister. When I feel one coming on, I just grab a packet of sugar, open it, wet my finger, pour a little bit of the sugar on my finger then dab it on my lip. I have been doing this for years. This method ALWAYS stops the cold sore from developing. Have shared it with many others that also have had the same positive results.

Fever Blister/Cold Sore Remedy

I use thieves oil on my cold sores, although since using it I rarely get them anymore. I apply as soon as I feel that familiar tingling on my lip. You can buy it or make your own. I make my own.

Cold sore relief

Ive tried everything out there to aleviate cold sore symptoms. Nothing helped. My cold sores were so bad they migrated up to the side of my nose. And they took for ever to heal. It was not uncommon to have a new outbreak occur before my mouth would heal resulting in scars I carry today. Finaly I found zovriax (the pill version) which I took as soon as I felt the tell tale symptoms. I take a higher dosage 1 time a day until the symptoms were gone . After 4-5 times the cold sores never came back. Well 20 years later Ive either been reinfected or the virus has just been dorment cause I just had another outbreak. As soon as I took the Zovriax they began to heal. I plan to folow the same procedure as last time and hope for similar results. Someone tols me once that it lives in the base of your spine in that fluid.

cold sore remedy

coat the lesion with Gentian Violet, available at the local drugstore for about $2, I do this when I get one, it is gone in a day and a half. You will have a purple spot on the lip for a short while.

L-Lysine Ointment

I can't prove it with study results, but I believe this to be the cure, not just the temporary fix: Basic Organics L-Lysine Lip Ointment. It claims to have the highest amount of the active ingredient, if I'm remembering correctly.

Remedies

L-lysine capsules also help tremendously. I take 2 capsules 3x a day when I feel the tell tale tingle. Most times, if caught soon enough, it begins healing before the blisters break out.

I have found that if I use

I have found that if I use colloidal silver as soon as I feel it coming on it will stop it or have it gone in a couple of days. I simply soak a tissue in colloidal silver and hold it on the break out area for a few minutes. ( I make my own colloidal also)

Cold Sores

My cold sores are usually caused by sunlight. First week outside in the sun and they are out. I have had them under my nose, on the side of my nose and up above the lip. I have to be careful because these are the ones that can scar your face if they have a deep scab. I had to go to the doctor for a prescription for Zovirax cream. It usually takes them away in a matter of days. But a small tube of this medicine is $600.00 dollars. I saw how much the pharmacy charged my insurance for it, but it lasts for 2 years. I tried the Abreva and it did nothing. And that was very expensive also.

Dairy Products for Cold Sores;

Sun;;ight can increase Cold Sores in some people; I was wondering if you consume Dairy Products; do you "squint in the Sun when you go outside";

The way Dairy Products protect against Cold Sores is because Milk contains Vitamin B2 Riboflavin; I knew a young man taking many medicines; he was getting cold sores; he began drinking milk; the cold sores were gone in a week; Riboflavin B2 can be bought as a supplement; Milk has other Vitamins; Yogurt is very good at helping Cold Sores; consumed and dabbed on lips(plain yogurt only; like Stonyfield); I would try sunscreen before going in the Sun.

Dairy Products for Cold Sores;

Comment: Chicken Eggs + Milk contain Lysine; when one goes outside one's Riboflavin B2 is depleted by Sunlight; this is the reason "Hood Dairy companies" keep their Milk in sunlight proof containers to protect the valuable Riboflavin Vitamin B2:; ALL NUT MILKS HAVE VIT. B2;
Scientists are not clear as to why Vitamin B2 protects against "Cold Sores and Herpes"; they know how Sunlight affects B2 Levels; I like to recommend Food: these foods have B2; "Dairy; Eggs; Almond Milk; Cashew Milk; Hazelnut Milk; Soy Milk; Hemp Milk; the list goes on"; AR'51;

Zinc Oxide Ointment;

"Zinc Oxide Ointment is effective at preventing Cold Sores; Herpes: apply on the cold sores:(this is what The Lifeguards use on their nose); most Sunscreens have a Zinc Oxide Base(a naturally occurring element); Zinc reflects the Sun naturally; (I do not recommend Zinc Supplements)"; A.R.'51/Conn.

Cold Sores

I have always used Bag Balm with sucess, especially if I catch it early.

Cold sore remedies

My mother always used "Camphor Spirit" applied directly on the sore. 60 years later it still works for me. It can be hard to find, not all drug stores carry it, but you could ask the Pharmacist for help.

Cold Sore Treatment and Prevention

I never leave home without Abreva. As soon as you feel a tingle apply it. A small tube lasts a very long time. I swear by this product. I also apply ice on top of it if it’s starting to get red and peak. Usually, I’m able to subdue it and it goes away! No outbreak. To prevent further outbreaks always wear lip balm with sunscreen SPF 15 or higher. Throw away lipsticks and toothbrushes that are contaminated. Avoid stress as much as possible. Also avoid food and drinks high in arginine (peanuts, cola, wheat, chocolate, peas, strawberries, walnuts, beer, some alcohols. -these are my triggers). I still eat or drink them once in a while but very little. Happy to say I haven’t had an outbreak in a few years! Thank goodness.

Break the Cycle

If you have recurring cold sores, then switch out your toothbrush as soon as it comes out and then again as the cold sore heals completely. This way you break the viral spiral of getting the virus reintroduced again. It really made a big difference and I very rarely get cold sores now.

Cold sores

My dentist told me to use ice. I hold a cube on the sore as long as I can stand it, take it off for a few minutes and then do it again. I do this several times a day, and the cold sore doesn’t get any bigger, and goes away more quickly. It helps to catch it early, too.

cold sore treatment

Years ago I was advised from some well-meaning elders to put cigarette ashes on the cold sore. I found the ashes actually do stop the sore from getting bigger and help the sore to scab over. Depending on your skin color, this treatment may or may not be obvious to others.

L-Lysine

I agree with Megan Coleman - L-Lysine is VERY effective at reducing the severity of a cold sore. In addition, if you add a B complex vitamin to your daily regimen, it will help boost your immune system. The combination of the two supplements is a powerful weapon in the war on cold sores.

Vitamin B-Complex(Riboflavin Vit. B2);

The way Dairy Products protect against Cold Sores is because Milk contains Vitamin B2 Riboflavin; I knew a young man taking many medicines; he was getting cold sores; he began drinking milk; the cold sores were gone in a week; Riboflavin B2 can be bought as a supplement; Milk has other Vitamins; Minerals too;;;

cold sore treatment

Abreva best over the counter med for cold sores. It stops the virus in its tracts and your sore stops hurting and you heal in 2 days or less (if you start early).

Cold SoreHerpes Simples 1 Remedy

Herpes Simplex 1 can easily and effectively be handled with L-Lysine. It is available in the vitamin section of most stores. The moment you feel that tingly sensation start taking a 1,000 mg pill 4 times a day until the break-out starts to dry and scab. If you catch it soon enough it may not get a chance to break out. If it does, the outbreak will be minimal and fade in a few days. If it doesn't break out you should take the pills for at least 4 days. Herpes usually has a 10-day life. Since I have used L-Lysine I haven't experienced a full-on break out! It has been about 20 years. L-Lysine is an amino acid that is natural to your body. It helps strengthen your white blood cells which in turn fight viruses.

Yes, stop cold sores in their tracks!

This blog post and most all of the replies are about treating cold sores. Why let them get started?

We have kept L-Lysine tablets on hand for the past 40 years, and taking 4 tabs upon the first inkling of a cold sore, and a couple each day for about 4 days, has always prevented cold sores. Prevention seems better than treatment ;)

Cold sore remedy

As soon as you start feeling it come on eat broccoli, it helps me every time, also apply a good Manuka honey to it. Will see great improvement within days.

Cold Sores

Too much sun brings out my cold sore, as well as stress! I have found that taking a supplement of L-Lysine on a routine basis diminishes outbreaks and IF I feel one starting I up the dosage from one 1000mg to 2 or 3 a day....Just had one last week and it kept it from going "full-blown" and was gone it 4 days! It works for me!

Heal a Fever Blister faster

We all know that if you constantly lick a fever blister, it simply will not heal as fast. To prevent this, just smear just a dab of dog poop on the affected area. It won't do anything to cure it, but it WILL keep you from licking it! Hope this helps! LOL

Thyme

My hubby suffers from cold sores from time to time, especially when under stress. I recently read that thyme, since it is an anti-viral, can help prevent them. I started adding dried thyme to the tea we drink each morning (hot water with lemon juice, cinnamon stick, chopped ginger root, fennel seed and honey) and his outbreaks have almost completely stopped. He said sometimes he would feel the telltale tingling, and then it would go away. We are sold on thyme!

Thyme;

Thyme is an evergreen Herb; this is one reason why Thyme is effective at "getting germs"; many Herbs are evergreens; like Rosemary; "time for thyme";

How to get rid of a cold sore

Famciclovir. Primarily used to treat shingles but it works great for cold sores. Blisters don't even appear and the other symptoms are gone in less than 1-day. I use to take Lysine but I was using so much, I think I became immune to it because it did nothing for me after a while. Ask your doctor about this - I swear by it.

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.

St. John's Wort Oil

Thanks for the tip; we have an abundance of Native St. John's Wort meadows in Conn.; I was thinking about using the Leaves/Flowers for a cold sore Tea;;

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.

garlic

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

GARLIC FOR COLD SORE

I USED GARLIC ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO. AFTER USING A COUPLE TIMES MY COLD SORE WENT AWAY. I HAVE NOT HAD ONE IN FIVE YEARS NOW. I USE TO GET THEM 3 OR 4 TIMES A YEAR. GARLIC IS #1.

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. 

RAW HONEY

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!

COLD SORES

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.

l-lysine

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

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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