How to Treat an Open Cold Sore

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A cold sore life cycle can last seven to twelve days.
A cold sore life cycle can last seven to twelve days. (Image: mail mouth image by MLProject from Fotolia.com)

Cold sores affect approximately eight out of every 10 Americans. The stages of a cold sore last seven to 12 days from the time it begins tingling under tender, sore skin until it oozes open and heals. Cold sores often appear on the body near the mouth, nose and sometimes the eyes, during times when a person's immune system is weaker than normal. Treating a cold sore when it is open, is to treat it right in the middle of its life cycle.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton balls
  • Swabs, cotton-tipped (optional)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Gauze
  • Warm compress
  • Cold sore treatment ointment, over the counter

Dab a cotton ball or cotton-tipped swab into rubbing alcohol and then lightly touch the open cold sore. Do not swab around the infected area to avoid spreading the germs.

Blot the area with gauze to dry it. Throw away the cotton ball, cotton-tipped swabs and gauze when you finish.

Apply a warm compress to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day to help increase blood circulation to the area to promote speedy healing. A warm compress could be a warm to slightly hot wash cloth or a warm, but not hot, wet tea bag.

Dry the area with more gauze after you apply the warm compress. Apply an over-the-counter cold sore cream to the area with a cotton ball or cotton-blend tipped swab according to the instructions on the package.

Throw away any remaining items you used to apply or clean the cold sore. Throw any wash cloths in with your dirty laundry and thoroughly wash your hands with hot soapy water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid sharing towels, utensils, drinking glasses and makeup when you feel a cold sore begin to “tingle” under the surface of the skin. This will help keep the virus from spreading to others in your home.

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