Medications to Treat Fever Blisters


The virus that causes fever blisters is found in 95 percent of people, however only 10 percent have breakouts. Medication will speed the healing and reduce the pain of a fever blister, but they will disappear on their own without treatment. There are no cures available that will remove the virus that causes fever blisters from your body.


Fever blisters are also referred to as cold sores and are a contagious form of the herpes virus. The blisters form on the outside of the mouth, usually on the lip line or at the corner where the lips meet. No signs or symptoms appear when the virus is introduced into the body; instead the first symptoms are when the blister starts to appear.


Fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus. The virus spreads by contact, usually from touching or kissing an infected person during or prior to an outbreak when the virus is active. Once a person is infected with the virus, it will never leave the body but instead goes into a dormant stage. A fever blister outbreak is caused when the body’s defense systems are weakened. Some causes are: fever, illness, stress, injury, UV radiation from the sun, or hormonal changes in the body.


Symptoms that a blister is forming are felt up to three days prior. Some people will feel pain, itching or a burning feeling at the location point. Once the blister appears, it is liquid filled and red in appearance.

Topical Prescriptions

There are two topical cream treatments approved by the FDA; Zovirax (Acyclovir) and Denavir (Penciclovir). Both Zovirax and Denavir are prescription creams for use by patients over the age of 12 and are applied at the first sign of a blister. Zovirax side effects are dry skin and lips and possible peeling of skin where the cream is applied. Denavir side effects include: headache, changes in taste buds, and rash. Neither medication should be taken by a pregnant or nursing mother.

Oral Prescriptions

Valtrex (Valacyclovir) and Famvir (Famciclovir) are oral medications taken in pill form at the onset of the fever blister. These medications are not approved for use in children. Common side effects for both medications are headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue. Valtrex side effects also include depression, joint pain, and dizziness. Women that are pregnant for nursing should not take either oral medication. Both medications are also prescribed for shingles and genital herpes.

Over-the-Counter Treatment

Abreva is an over-the-counter cream medication approved for use with fever blisters or cold sores on patients over the age of 12 years. This medication should be applied at the first warning to speed the healing process. Side effects with Abreva are headaches, menstrual pain, or a runny or stuffy nose. Abreva has not been studied for use with pregnant or nursing women, so consult a physician prior to use.

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