Like canker sores, cold sores will usually disappear on their own within two weeks. Although there’s no cure or vaccine for herpes simplex virus 1, the virus that causes cold sores, prescription and over-the-counter antiviral medications can help reduce pain and hasten healing.
Patients with frequent outbreaks can also talk with a physician or other qualified care provider about using a daily antiviral medication to reduce the risk of reoccurrences.
Other ways to treat cold sores:
- Use a cold compress to help reduce pain and redness.
- Apply petroleum jelly, which can help limit cracking.
- Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease the pain.
Although cold sores are usually not a serious condition, herpes simplex virus 1 is highly contagious so people should try to prevent its transmission to others. The virus is most contagious when a lesion is visible and oozing, and It can easily be spread through close contact such as kissing, sharing utensils, drinking glasses and cosmetics.
“Keep in mind that you can still spread the herpes virus through close contact even after the cold sore disappears,” Dr. Turek says. “As a result, it’s wise to avoid eating or drinking or sharing food and drink with other people.”
When you have a cold sore:
- Don’t touch, pick or scratch the lesion.
- Don’t pop it, which can increase the risk of spreading it to another person or causing another lesion
- Avoid eating or drinking acidic foods or hot and spicy foods, which can add to the discomfort.
- Avoid foods that contain amino acids such as seeds, almonds, chocolate and peanut butter, which the virus needs to thrive.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Be especially careful around babies, pregnant women or people with weakened or compromised immune systems.
If you suffer from frequent cold sores, are struggling with one that won’t heal, develop a high fever or have a lesion that seems to be spreading, make an appointment with your physician or other qualified care provider.