How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast

Experts strongly suggest taking or using these medications as early as you can to speed up the healing cycle. When your cold sore begins to crust over and form a scab, you might also try applying a moisturizing cream.

How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore as Fast as Possible

woman touching lip

You may call them cold sores or fever blisters. Whichever name you prefer, these sores tend to develop on the lip or around the mouth.

They are caused by the herpes simplex virus — usually, type 1. Also known as HSV-1, the virus causes these blisters, or ulcers, which can be painful.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you notice one near your mouth. Lots of people get cold sores. Chances are, you know someone who’s had one before, or maybe you’ve had one, too.

HSV-1 is the most commonly recurring viral infection. In fact, more than half of all Americans between ages 14 and 49 carry this virus.

Cold sores typically clear up within 10 days in people with healthy immune systems and no other underlying health conditions, like eczema.

Unfortunately, nothing can clear up a cold sore overnight — but some medications and treatments can shorten the life span of a cold sore and make you feel better, too.

One of the most important things to remember about treating a cold sore: Don’t wait. Start treating it right away, and you may be able to reduce the time you have it. When you notice that telltale tingle, go ahead and start applying a topical antiviral medication to the spot.

Where to start

Consider using an over-the-counter (OTC) antiviral ointment. You may have seen tubes of docosanol (Abreva) at your local drugstore. Many people start with this common OTC option and use it until their cold sores have healed.

With this product, healing times may be comparable to other treatments, according to research from 2001.

Prescription options

An OTC topical cream isn’t your only option. You can also try prescription antiviral medication. Talk with your doctor to see if one of these might be a good option for you:

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax): available in oral form and as a topical cream
  • Famciclovir: available as an oral medication
  • Penciclovir (Denavir): available as a cream
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex): available as a tablet

Experts strongly suggest taking or using these medications as early as you can to speed up the healing cycle. When your cold sore begins to crust over and form a scab, you might also try applying a moisturizing cream.

You should note that while applying treatments may help quicken healing time, it may only be a slight increase.

A 2018 review found that acyclovir, penciclovir, or docosanol were only “marginally” more efficient at treating cold sores than a placebo, shortening participants’ pain duration by fewer than 24 hours.

If you’re interested in a complementary approach for healing a cold sore, you have several options to choose from.

However, you should know that there is insufficient data to support the routine use of these complementary therapies in treating cold sores. You should discuss them with your doctor before use, and they shouldn’t replace more conventional treatments.

Use caution when applying any new substances to your skin. Reactions like irritation and allergic contact dermatitis have been known to occur from some of these treatments.

For example, it’s well-known that propolis, which is mentioned below, can cause allergic contact dermatitis in some individuals. Before using this treatment, it may be best to discuss it with your dermatologist first.

You may also want to test it on a small area of skin, such as the inner forearm, to see how you react before applying it elsewhere. This is called a patch test.

Apple cider vinegar

Many people are interested in using apple cider vinegar as a treatment because of its proposed ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other germs, according to 2019 research .

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However, full-strength apple cider vinegar is too intense to use directly on a cold sore and could seriously irritate your skin. Be sure to dilute it before using, and then apply only once or twice per day.

Essential oils

Studies have found that a variety of essential oils — which are concentrated oils containing plant compounds — have inhibitory effects against the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores.

Although research is limited, a study from 2015 found that a variety of essential oils may slow down or prevent viral replication of the herpes virus, helping heal and prevent cold sores.

According to that study and another older study from 2007, the following essential oils show antiviral effects against the herpes virus:

  • rosemary essential oil
  • peppermint oil
  • tea tree oil
  • clove essential oil
  • cinnamon essential oil
  • basil essential oil
  • ginger essential oil
  • thyme essential oil
  • hyssop essential oil
  • sandalwood essential oil
  • Zataria multiflora essential oil
  • Eucalyptus caesia essential oil
  • Artemisia kermanensis essential oil

Unfortunately, much of the research on essential oils and HSV-1 is outdated. A 2001 study found that tea tree oil displays some antiviral effects that could help fight off the herpes simplex virus, while another lab study from 2003 shows that peppermint oil is effective in fighting off both the HSV-1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

A 2007 study suggests that ginger, thyme, hyssop, and sandalwood essential oils could even be effective treatments for drug-resistant versions of the virus.

Notably, these studies have limitations, and evidence may be anecdotal. Both studies used herpes cells from monkeys, not humans. Plus, they were conducted in vitro, which means in a test tube or culture dish.

More research is needed to confirm the extent of these oil’s antiviral effects in humans.

As with apple cider vinegar, you’ll want to dilute any essential oils in a carrier oil before dabbing on your skin, and apply as soon as you feel the tingle of a developing cold sore.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Kanuka honey

Honey already has a reputation for helping wounds and skin injuries heal, and a 2018 study found that kanuka honey, which comes from the manuka tree in New Zealand, could be useful for treating cold sores, too.

In fact, the large randomized clinical trial found that a medical-grade version of this honey seemed to be as effective at treating cold sores as acyclovir.


Like honey, propolis is another bee product that holds some promise for healing wounds and skin lesions. The antiviral properties of propolis could make it a candidate for healing your cold sores a little more quickly, 2016 research suggests.

Lemon balm

The research is dated, but a 2008 study suggests that applying an extract of lemon balm, which is an herb from the mint family, has an inhibitory effect against the HSV virus that causes cold sores. The study’s authors suggest that lemon balm could be used to treat HSV, but note that more clinical trials are needed.

A 2020 case report found that applying a gel containing lemon balm as well as St. John’s Wort, lavender, licorice, and Siberian ginseng worked as an effective and rapid-acting alternative to OTC cold sore medications.

However, larger-scale studies are needed to determine the extent of this treatment’s therapeutic benefits.

Lemon balm is also available in capsule form and is used for a variety of other therapeutic purposes, according to a 2015 research review.


Per a 2017 review , studies have shown that people taking lysine were less likely to experience recurrences of cold sores. However, these studies have limits, and some of the evidence is contradictory.

For example, no optimal dose or even particular type of preparation of lysine was recommended. However, doses greater than 3 grams per day appear to improve the patient’s “subjective experience” of the disease.

Also, research from 2015 suggests that using lysine won’t prevent the occurrence of a cold sore, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

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This essential amino acid is available as an oral supplement or a cream.

It’s important to know that OTC oral supplements, including lysine, are poorly regulated by the FDA. Before taking any oral supplement, you should first discuss it with a healthcare professional. Some supplements can be contaminated with active pharmaceuticals that may be harmful to you, 2018 research shows.

Here’s How You Can Get Rid of a Cold Sore (Fast!)

Young man with cold sore on lip

More than half of people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus that causes cold sores. Between 20 and 40% of them will experience the joy that is a cold sore.

If you’re one of them, odds are you know this pattern: A tingling or burning sensation on your lip. A day later, an oozy, fluid-filled blister on your mouth, always at the most inopportune time.

Family medicine physician Sarah Pickering Beers, MD, shares her advice for dealing with this sore spot.

Cold sores: common and contagious

Cold sores are common and mostly harmless. They’re caused by the herpes simplex virus, which spreads easily from person to person.

In some lucky people, the virus might cause a cold sore once or twice and never rear its head again. But for other people, they come back again and again, sometimes several times a year. And that gets old real fast.

“They tend to go away on their own in 10 to 14 days,” says Dr. Beers. “But that doesn’t make them any less annoying.”

Cold sore remedies

Two weeks might as well be an eternity when you have an oozy, scabby sore smack dab in the middle of your face. Here’s what you can do to ease the discomfort and send that cold on its way.

  • Oral antiviral medications: “The most efficient way to get rid of cold sores is with oral antiviral medications,” Dr. Beers says. A doctor can prescribe these medications, which reduce pain and help the sore clear faster. But you have to start taking them within the first day or so that the cold sore develops, or they don’t do much to help, Dr. Beers says. If you’re one of the unlucky people who tends to get cold sore after cold sore, your doctor might be able to prescribe a daily antiviral to keep them at bay, Dr. Beers adds.
  • Antiviral cream: If you can’t make it to a doctor for a prescription, over-the-counter antiviral creams can help knock back a cold sore. “These are slightly less effective than oral antivirals, but they do reduce the pain and duration of the sore,” Dr. Beers says. But like oral medications, you have to start using the cream ASAP for it to work.

How to treat cold sore pain

DIY remedies aren’t likely to make a cold sore disappear any faster. But there are things you can do to ease the pain while you’re waiting impatiently for it to heal.

  1. Numb the pain: Over-the-counter pain reliever creams such as lidocaine and benzocaine can numb the burning and ease the discomfort. These are often marketed for dental pain, so look for them in the dental section of the drug store.
  2. Moisturize: Keep your lip and mouth area moisturized to prevent the sore from drying out and peeling, Dr. Beers says. But if you use lip balm on an active sore, consider it contaminated. “Once you’ve used it on a cold sore, you should throw it away after the sore is better,” Dr. Beers says.
  3. Cool it: Using a simple cold compress, like ice or a cold, wet rag, can help reduce pain and redness.
  4. Hands off: It can take all your self-control not to play with a cold sore, but try to resist the temptation. “It’s instinct to pick at it and scrape the peeling skin, but you should let it heal itself,” Dr. Beers says.

Meanwhile, you don’t want to inflict these sores on others. Skip the make-out sessions until you’ve healed and wash your hands often.

While cold sores are annoying in adults, the virus can be life-threatening in a baby, so take care to steer clear, Dr. Beers advises: “As much as you might want to see your niece or nephew or grandbaby, please don’t shower them with kisses if you have an active cold sore.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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