How to Treat Cold Sores on Lips

Herpes treatment (herpes simplex 1) is the same as cold sore treatment.
Herpes treatment (herpes simplex 1) is the same as cold sore treatment. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Cold sores are a common occurrence in many people and are typically characterized by small, red blisters on or near the lips. Exposure to herpes simplex 1 virus causes these sores to develop. This form of herpes is very common and highly contagious, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that most adults are infected with it by the time they reach the age of 20. Unfortunately, cold sores on the lips and mouth can recur frequently after the initial outbreak. While there is no cold sore cure, the following tips work as cold sore treatment and reduce cold sore symptoms.

Things You'll Need

  • Over-the-counter cold sore treatment
  • Soap
  • Towels
  • Cotton swabs

Cold Sore Treatment

Purchase an over-the-counter cold sore treatment as soon as you feel the tingling that indicates a cold sore is imminent. The treatment should contain docosonal or benzyl alcohol and will typically be packaged in gel or cream form. Abreva and Zilactin are common over-the-counter products that you can purchase at any drugstore or pharmacy.

Wash your hands, lips and face thoroughly with warm water and soap. Dry with a clean towel.

Apply a small amount of the cold sore treatment directly onto the cold sores on your lips and the surrounding area. You may use your finger or a cotton swab. Rub the gel or cream in thoroughly and avoid licking your lips as much as possible.

Reapply the treatment to your lips up to five times each day. Continue the cold sore treatment for 10 days or until your symptoms improve.

Wash your hands thoroughly after touching your cold sore. Avoid kissing other people and especially avoid contact with young children or elderly people. Cold sores are very contagious and can be spread easily.

Wash your towels, sheets and pillowcases often when you have cold sores to avoid spreading the infection to other areas of your body. Use the hottest heat setting available on your washing machine.

Visit your doctor if your cold sore does not go away after two weeks or if you have a severe outbreak. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat cold sores.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cold sores on the lips should go away within seven to 10 days, although they may recur.
  • Remember cold sore treatment is not a cold sore cure, do what you can to avoid contact with those susceptible to the virus when you have an outbreak.
  • Visit your doctor immediately if you have a cold sore and begin to notice signs of eye irritation. The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores can lead to blindness if it gets into your eye. The Mayo Clinic notes that this is one of the primary causes of blindness in the U.S.

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