Nine Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Sores

Are you frequently suffering from cold sores lately? Have you ever wondered what causes them? How to prevent them in the long run? We've compiled a list of nine frequently asked questions about cold sores to help answer all your burning queries. From the basics of what they are to more specific concerns like treatments and triggers, we've got you covered. So let's dive into the essential knowledge supplement!

What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small, painful blisters that surface on our lips, nose, or chin. They can be contagious through close contacts, such as kissing or sharing utensils.

Cold sores typically start with a tingling or burning sensation. Then it is followed by the appearance of small blisters. The blisters eventually break and form a crusty scab. Usually, cold sores heal within two weeks without treatment. However, some people may experience recurrent outbreaks. There is no cure for HSV. But, some antiviral medications and home remedies can help you reduce the severity and duration of cold sore outbreaks with ease.

What Causes Cold Sores?

There could be different triggers for cold sores. However, mostly, it’s due to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This virus is transmitted through contact with the infected person. And surprisingly, it can happen even through saliva exchange or through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infected person.

Are cold Sores Contagious?

As cold sores are caused by the HSV virus, they are contagious. The virus can be easily transmitted through direct contact with the following −

  • Blisters

  • Saliva

  • Shared utensils

  • Lip balm

  • Razors

The contagious nature of cold sores underscores the importance of practicing good personal hygiene and avoiding close contact with those experiencing an outbreak. Even a seemingly innocent peck on the cheek could lead to a troublesome infection for the unsuspecting recipient.

How can I Prevent Cold Sores?

You can do the following few things to prevent cold sores with ease −

  • Avoid sharing utensils, cups, or lip balm with someone who has a cold sore.

  • Wash your hands often, especially after touching your face.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or lips if you have a cold sore.

  • Try to reduce stress, as it can trigger an outbreak.

  • If you get cold sores often, talk to your doctor about taking a daily antiviral medication.

How do I Treat Cold Sores?

In this regard, here are a few tips for treating cold sores at home.

  • It's important to keep the sore clean and dry. You can do this by washing it with soap and water or using an alcohol-based cleanser.

  • You'll need to apply a topical cream or ointment to the sore. This will help reduce pain and inflammation.

  • You can take over-the-counter medication to help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Keep yourself hydrated and get rest to help your body heal.

Will cold Sores go Away on Their Own?

Yes, cold sores will go away on their own. However, the amount of time they need to go away can vary. For some people, cold sores may go away within a week. However, for others, it may take up to two weeks or longer for the sore to completely heal. Additionally, some people may experience recurrent cold sores, which means that the sore may come back at different times.

Are There any Home Remedies for cold Sores?

Here are some of the most effective options −

  • Docosanol (Abreva) − This is a topical cream that can shorten the duration of cold sore symptoms when applied early in the outbreak. It works by preventing the virus from entering healthy cells and replicating.

  • Acyclovir Cream − This is another topical cream that can help reduce the duration and severity of cold sores. It works by stopping the virus from multiplying and spreading.

  • Benzyl Alcohol and Phenol − These are topical medications that can help relieve the pain and itching associated with cold sores. They work by numbing the affected area and reducing inflammation.

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) − These over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with cold sores.

If these medications do not seem to be helping, or if the sore is particularly large or painful, it is best to see a doctor or dermatologist for treatment options.

What are the Complications of cold Sores?

  • Complications of cold sores include bacterial infection, scarring, and transmission of the virus to other healthy persons.

  • Bacterial infection can occur when the virus enters the skin through a cut or break. This can lead to a secondary bacterial infection, such as redness, swelling, and pus.

  • Scarring may occur if the cold sore is not treated properly. The virus can damage the skin and create a scar.

  • Transmission of the virus can occur when someone with a cold sore comes into contact with another person.

When Should I See a Doctor for Cold Sores?

Most cold sores get cured within 7-10 days. However, you should consider seeing a doctor if −

  • Your cold sore is accompanied by a high fever or other signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.

  • Your cold sore is very large, painful, or spreading rapidly.

  • You have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medication and are experiencing frequent or severe cold sores.

  • Your cold sore is affecting your vision or hearing.

The doctor will prescribe antiviral medications to reduce the severity and duration of cold sore symptoms. They may also advise you on how to prevent future outbreaks, such as avoiding triggers like stress, sun exposure, or certain foods.


Cold sores are unpleasant and can be embarrassing. But the good news is that there’s lots of information available to help. With this knowledge, you can treat your cold sore symptoms with ease. However, your doctor can provide even more helpful advice on the best course of action for your individual needs.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started