How are cold sores treated?

Peggy Rosen

From my own experience; when cold sores begin to develop, I feel tingling at the same location without seeing any blister. I took 500 mg of L-Lysine immediately and continue to take once a day until it heals (in my case it only takes 3 days). L-Lysine is accelerating the process of recovery and reducing the frequency of cold sores.

Caution: Lysine is an essential amino acid that cannot be manufactured in our bodies. But it should be taken in the required amount, as an excessive amount can lead to certain health problems like gallstones and a reduction in the level of arginine. A physician should be consulted before taking lysine supplements, especially by pregnant and nursing mothers and people with cardiovascular diseases, kidney and liver problems.

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics and protectants, anti-inflammatory agents or topical antiviral agents may provide temporary relief for the discomfort but do little to speed healing. As with the common cold, there is no cure for these viral infections. Topical or systemic antiviral drugs can be prescribed by your dentist, but they are ineffective after 3 to 4 days of blister formation and usually are not recommended in otherwise healthy patients.
Todd A. Welch, DMD

There is no cure for cold sores. Some medicines can help cold sores heal faster. They may also relieve pain and discomfort. The medicines are valacyclovir (Valtrex), famciclovir (Famvir) and acyclovir (Zovirax). These drugs cannot get rid of the virus. You may need to take one of these drugs each time you have cold sores.

It is important to begin taking this type of medicine as soon as you feel the cold sore developing. These drugs also can stop cold sores from popping up in the first place. Some people take them when they know they will be under stress.

There also are antiviral creams and ointments, such as penciclovir (Denavir). These can make cold sores smaller, and make them disappear faster. It's best to start using a cream or ointment as soon as you feel a cold sore coming on.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Foods with lysine can help retard herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores. Learn about this and other ways to treat cold sores in this video with Dr. Oz.

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Cold sores (caused by a common virus called the herpes simplex virus) generally clear up without treatment, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) and applying ice packs or warm compresses to the blisters can ease the pain. Avoid squeezing, pinching or picking at any blister. If you have lasting or severe sores, or have frequent recurrences, your doctor may recommend an antiviral drug such as acyclovir (Zovirax).

Various antiviral medications are available to combat cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus. These include acyclovir, penciclovir, and valacyclovir. Antiviral medications only help to inhibit further growth of the virus so that the body's immune system can deal with the infection more effectively.  These medications may shorten healing time, reduce pain, and prevent the virus from developing further. These antivirals are available as prescription medications because they may have side effects. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need treatment for your cold sores.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.