Home Remedies and OTC Treatments to Get Rid of Cold Sores

Do you suffer from cold sores? Then you’re most likely to go through painful and uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, they don't have to be a part of your life forever! In this blog, we will discuss both home remedies and over-the-counter treatments to get rid of cold sores with ease. So, if you're looking for an all-natural remedy or a quick fix, read this blog till the end.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Treatments for Cold Sores

Docosanol Cream (Reduces Recovery Time)

Docosanol is a topical cream to treat cold sores and fever blisters caused by herpes labialis. It accelerates the healing of sores. Along with that, it also decreases symptoms such as itching, burning, tingling, and pain.

It stops the growth of the virus by blocking it from entering the skin cells and growing. 

Docosanol does not cure herpes or prevent it from passing to others. It only helps reduce the recovery time and the uncomfortable symptoms associated with it.

This medication only works on cold sores in the mouth. Please do not use it to treat canker sores, shingles, or genital herpes.

Wash your hands and dry your hands and the affected areas before applying. Apply a thin layer of the medication and rub it gently. You can use it five times a day every 3-4 hours.

Acyclovir Cream (Reduces Recovery Time)

The cream works the same as Docosanol cream. It is used for reducing the healing time for cold sores or fever blisters. It belongs to a class of medication called antivirals. It stops the growth of the herpes simplex virus but doesn’t cure it completely. Similar to Docosanol, it also doesn’t prevent the transmission of the virus to another person or stop its recurrence.

Benzocaine Cream, gel, or Ointment (Numb the Sores)

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that numbs uncomfortable symptoms. It works by blocking the nerve signals in the skin. When you apply it, you won’t feel any pain, itching, burning, or other discomforts due to cold sores.

Benzocaine products come in different concentrations. Around 20% benzocaine is ideal for cold sores.

Clean and dry your hands and the affected area with warm water. Apply a pea-sized benzocaine gel using clean fingers or a cotton swab on the affected area. Distribute the gel evenly, ensuring it entirely covers the cold sore.

Zinc Oxide Cream or Ointment (Reduces Blisters and Soreness)

Zinc oxide reduces the blistering, itching, tingling, and soreness of cold sores. It works effectively against both facial and genital herpes.

Zinc is known to reduce the intensity of blisters. However, it cannot cure it completely. In fact, a complete cure for herpes is not yet discovered. Zinc oxide cream and ointment can reduce the symptoms associated with it.

The nanoparticles in zinc oxide have negatively charged surfaces. In contrast, the herpes virus has positively charged surfaces. Since positive attracts negative, the herpes virus resists entering your system.

Hydrogen Peroxide (Prevents the Growth of Sores)

Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that makes your cold sores heal faster. It can also stop the growth or spread of sores. It is available in diluted or concentrated form.

It can help with minor irritation caused by cold sores, canker sores, gingivitis, and a few orthodontic issues.

When applied to the area, the liquid releases oxygen molecules. As a result, you notice some foaming on the applied area. This helps in removing mucus and sanitizing the area.

If you are using concentrated hydrogen peroxide, you need to dilute it with water.

Read the instructions on the leaflet carefully. Mix the right volume of water as instructed. Swish in your mouth and the affected area for one minute. You must spit out the liquid and not swallow.

If you use hydrogen peroxide gel, apply a few drops on the affected area.

Use the product 3-4 times daily or as your doctor advises.

Ibuprofen (For Pain Relief)

Ibuprofen is a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used for treating pain. It helps reduce inflammation and swelling due to cold sores. However, you should talk to your doctor to recommend the dosage. 

Lysine Supplements (Heals Cold Sores Faster)

Lysine is one of the essential amino acids responsible for muscle growth and immune functions. It activates T cells and other critical parts of the immune system. This helps in healing cold sores safer.

According to a 2005 study of 30 participants, 40% said their cold sores healed within three days by applying lysine ointment. The rest of the participants excluding two, witnessed complete healing within six days.

Lysine is available in supplements and ointments.

Home Remedies for Cold Sores

Lemon Balm (Reduces Redness and Swelling)

Lemon balm is an herb that comes with antiviral properties. It stops the virus responsible for cold sores. Not only it reduces swelling and redness of cold sores, but it also eliminates potential infections.

In a 1994 study comprising 116 participants with HSV-1 were asked to apply lemon balm on their cold sores. Within two days, their redness and swelling decrease significantly. However, the balm didn’t help with the scabbing and pain.

It is available in extract or oil. You should apply it three times daily.

Ice (Reduces Inflammation)

Ice is not a cure, but it helps significantly with inflammation. It causes a numbing sensation in the area, providing instant relief from pain, itching, and swelling.

Rub an ice cube on the area or press it with an ice pack. If the cold is unbearable, wrap the ice in a paper towel.

Sunscreen (Prevent Resurfacing)

Cold sores are easily triggered and come to the surface when exposed to sunlight. Wearing sunscreen around your lips can help prevent cold sores from resurfacing. If you are using lip balm, make sure it has SPF. For proper protection, use broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.

Vitamin E (healing and Preventing Cold Sores)

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can repair damaged skin cells. It is known to promote the growth of new cells. Applying vitamin E to the affected area can boost healing and soothe the cold sore.

Apply vitamin E topically to treat an existing cold sore. To prevent it from returning, follow a diet containing nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and food containing vitamin E.

Vitamin C (assists in Healing)

Vitamin C can help with healing cold sores. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant known for boosting the immune system and healing wounds. Dabbing diluted ascorbic acid on cold sores can stop their growth and assists in healing.

Some vitamin C food you can integrate into your diet includes berries, kiwis, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and broccoli.


Curing cold sores can be a difficult process, and it often feels like there’s no end in sight. But luckily, you can reduce the itchiness, pain, and redness of a cold sore. Home remedies like lemon balm and ice can soothe discomfort while OTC treatments like Acyclovir cream can shorten the duration of an outbreak. These steps will hopefully help you find relief from their irritating symptoms. Cold sores can be annoying, but arming yourself with information about how to treat them will help prevent them from becoming a bigger problem. With the right knowledge and treatments at your disposal, getting rid of a cold sore doesn't have to be a grueling battle.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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