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How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast

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How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast

writtenByWritten by: Dr. Sarah Dash
Dr. Sarah Dash

Dr. Sarah Dash

Sarah Dash is a PhD in Nutritional Psychiatry. Her research interests include public health, lifestyle medicine, noncommunicable disease prevention, and mental health.

Read more posts by this author.

March 31, 2021 Read Time - 7 minutes

How to Get Rid of Cold Sores

Cold sores can be an incredibly frustrating symptom to deal with. Even though about two-thirds of adults are estimated to be infected with the Herpes Simplex 1 Virus (HSV-1), nobody wants to walk around with an announcement of their herpes status on their face.

From how to get rid of a cold sore fast to when to see a doctor for cold sores, here are our top tips for treating cold sores.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Cold Sore Symptoms

Before you take any action to treat a cold sore, it’s important for you to determine whether you actually have one. 

How long do cold sores last? Symptoms typically start 2–12 days after becoming infected and last for about a week or more.

Symptoms of cold sores include:

  • Itching, tingling, burning, or pain before a sore appears
  • Blisters that start as tiny, shallow, gray ulcers on a red base then become crusted or scabbed and look dry and yellow
  • Sores may appear on the lips, gums, nose, front of the tongue, inside cheeks, throat,roof of the mouth, fingers, chin, or neck
  • Swollen, red gums that bleed
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in neck
  • Sore throat with shallow ulcers and a grayish coating on the tonsil
Get-rid-of-cold-sores-fast

Related: What Does Herpes Look Like?


What Are The Stages Of A Cold Sore?

There are 6 stages of cold sore development, starting from infection to the healing of the cold sore:

  • Prodrome –  Prodrome symptoms indicate the onset of an outbreak. During this stage, the virus travels to the surface of the skin, causing redness, itching, and tingling. Some might also experience flu-like symptoms. Even though sores and blisters have not yet developed, the skin is still highly contagious and remains contagious for the duration of the outbreak.
  • Blisters –  Once the virus reaches the surface of the skin, blisters begin to form. Blisters begin as small red bumps and can be sensitive or painful.  The appearance of blisters from herpes can be similar to pimples, ingrown hairs, jock itch, or razor burn. Flu-like symptoms can continue through this stage, but only if it is an outbreak associated with an initial infection.
  • Fluid-filled blisters – As the virus develops, blisters become full of fluid. As the fluid builds, blisters will become more tender and painful. Eventually, the pressure will increase within the blisters from fluid accumulation and they will burst.
  • Ulcers – When the blisters break and drain, you have reached the fourth stage. Burst blisters results in open sores called ulcers. Initially, ulcers look like pink or red craters that ooze fluid or more rarely bleed. During this stage, the open sores are more uncomfortable or painful than preceding blisters.
  • Scabbing – Ulcers eventually accumulate dead cells into a soft material colored whitish-yellow. This material hardens and turns into a crust or scab. Crusts and scabs form by the area drying out, which doesn’t happen in wet areas like inside the mouth or genitals.
  • Healing – Ulcers can take a long time to heal. During an initial herpes outbreak, healing can take 1 to 2 weeks. Healing during subsequent outbreaks is usually quicker.
get-rid-of-cold-sores-fast

Related: What are the Herpes Stages?


How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore at Home

At-home cold sore treatment generally involves a combination of home remedies for herpes and over-the-counter antiviral medication. Some at-home cold sore remedies include:

  • Applying cold sore ointments such as Docosanol (Abreva) to shorten outbreaks
  • Using zinc oxide cream or a lip balm with sunblock to protect your lips
  • Applying a cool compress (such as a cold, wet washcloth) to reduce redness, help remove crusting, and promote healing
  • Using over-the-counter products such as pain relievers, creams with lidocaine or benzocaine, or remedies that contain a drying agent (i.e., alcohol)
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Applying topical amino acid supplements such as lysine 
  • Using propolis, a synthetic beeswax available as a 3% ointment, to shorten the duration of symptoms
  • Applying a cream that combines rhubarb and sage, which may be as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream
  • Reducing stress, since stress can cause or worsen symptoms
  • Soothing the skin with aloe vera gel, which contains anti-inflammatory properties

Because there is insufficient evidence to support the use of at-home cold sore remedies, be sure to discuss any treatments with your doctor before use. Additionally, exercise caution when applying new substances to your skin to avoid potential reactions.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Cold Sore Medicine

Most cold sore remedies only manage the problems associated with cold sores and do not get rid of the cold sores themselves.

The best way to get rid of cold sores fast is to talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for herpes treatment such as:

  • Acyclovir (Xerese, Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • Famciclovir (Famvir)
  • Penciclovir (Denavir)

How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Overnight

You cannot get rid of a cold sore overnight, but it is possible to speed up the healing time of your cold sore. The best way to get rid of a cold sore as quickly as possible is to talk to your doctor about prescription cold sore medicine, such as antiviral tablets or creams.

“One-day treatment with the prescription antiviral drugs famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) shortens cold sore symptoms by one to two days,” according to Harvard Medical School. “These oral medications are most effective when taken at the first sign of a cold sore, such as a burning or tingling sensation.”

Some prescription cold sore medicines and at-home cold sore remedies will help reduce the length of time that you suffer from cold sores, while some will only help relieve your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to get rid of a cold sore before combining treatments to treat your cold sores.

During the healing process, it is best to let a cold sore dry out, then apply medication as prescribed by your doctor. This means leaving your cold sore exposed whenever possible.

When to See a Doctor for Cold Sores

In most cases, cold sores go away on their own within 1–2 weeks. If your cold sore does not go away on its own after 2 weeks, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about cold sore treatment.

If you experience cold sores several times a year or more, ask your doctor about prescription-strength cold sore medication.

Other reasons to see your doctor for cold sores include:

  • Severe pain around the affected area
  • Numerous cold sores
  • Sores around the eyes or other parts of the body

If you have eczema, you may experience cracked or bleeding areas on your skin. If the herpes virus spreads into those openings, you may be at risk of further complications.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get Cold Sore Treatment Online

Understanding the symptoms of cold sores and finding out how to get rid of a cold sore can help you speed up the healing process and find relief from your symptoms.

Whether you have an event coming up and you want to find out how to get rid of a cold sore fast or you’re interested in prescription cold sore medicine, the doctors at PlushCare are here to help. Book an online appointment with a PlushCare physician to get a prescription treatment today and learn how to get rid of a cold sore.


Read More About Herpes


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Mayo Clinic. Cold sore. Accessed on February 14, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20371017   

MedlinePlus. Cold Sores. Accessed on February 14, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/coldsores.html 

Harvard Medical School. Preventing cold sores. Accessed on August 7, 2020 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/oral-health/preventing-cold-sores

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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