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Cold sores are blisters that can develop on the lips or around the mouth when a person has the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There is currently no cure, but there are treatment options to help control the symptoms and reduce the risk of having an outbreak.

This article will examine the treatment options for cold sores and the products available for purchase. It will also look at some things to avoid and when to contact a doctor.

Cold sores, or oral herpes, are blister-type lesions that develop when a person contracts HSV. This can happen due to kissing or sharing personal items, such as towels or lip balm, with someone who has the virus.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some people contract HSV during childhood, and they may not experience any symptoms.

However, if symptoms do occur, a person may experience:

The virus remains inactive and does not leave the body. Sometimes, it reactivates and causes an outbreak. If this happens, people may have different symptoms than those they had the first time they experienced an outbreak.

People who have had the virus for some time may experience burning, itching, and stinging 1–2 days before a cold sore appears.

There is currently no cure for cold sores, but treatment can help manage outbreaks and reduce the risk of the virus spreading to others.

There are three cold sore treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter medications: Some creams and ointments are available without a prescription. People may be able to apply these options directly to the cold sore. They can also use these products when they first notice a tingling or burning sensation before a cold sore develops.
  • Prescription medications: Doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs to speed up the healing process.
  • Intravenous (IV) antiviral medications: If other treatment options are not effective, doctors may prescribe an IV antiviral medication. They may have to monitor the person during their treatment.

Several online pharmacies offer prescription cold sore treatments.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.

Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is an antiviral medication that helps cold sores heal faster and shortens the duration of blisters during outbreaks. Doctors may also prescribe this drug for genital herpes, shingles, and chickenpox.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) recommends that people use valacyclovir as soon as they start experiencing cold sore symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • tingling
  • itching
  • burning

People experiencing a cold sore outbreak can book a consultation with an online pharmacy such as Roman to discuss their symptoms and concerns.

Roman also offers free 2-day shipping and delivers medications in discreet packaging.

Famciclovir (Famvir)

Famciclovir (Famvir) is a prescription medication that helps treat repeat outbreaks of HSV cold sores. This medication comes as a tablet, and people can take 1,500 milligrams as a single dose, either with or without food.

The NLM recommends that people initiate treatment with this medication at the first cold sore symptom.

People experiencing an outbreak can use online pharmacies such as Blink Health to order this medication if they have a prescription.

Blink Health offers local pickups from participating pharmacies as well as online delivery.

Penciclovir (Denavir)

Penciclovir is available as a topical cream, and it helps reduce pain and itching associated with cold sores. The NLM states that doctors may prescribe it for individuals aged 12 years and older.

People should use this cream as soon as they notice any cold sore symptoms. They can apply this medication once every 2 hours for 4 days.

Online pharmacies such as Blink Health offer penciclovir by prescription for people with cold sores.

Blink Health states that it can connect individuals with a licensed doctor for an online visit if they do not have a prescription.

People can also purchase products for cold sores without a prescription. They can begin treatment with these options within 24 hours of first noticing cold sore symptoms.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.

Abreva docosanol

Docosanol is an antiviral cream that may help treat recurrent cold sores. The manufacturer says that it prevents HSV from entering the surrounding cells.

The manufacturer also states that this product can heal cold sore blisters in as little as 2.5 days. However, the average healing time seems to be 4.1 days.

Abreva recommends this product for individuals aged 12 years and older. People who are pregnant or nursing should seek medical advice before using it.

Zilactin cold sore gel

This product contains benzyl alcohol. It can promote healing and relieve pain for up to 6 hours, as it forms a protective layer over the cold sore.

According to the NLM, people should not remove this protective layer, as this can cause skin irritation or tenderness. To remove this layer, people should apply another coat of Zilactin gel and wipe the area straight away.

The manufacturer states that this product is suitable for adults and children aged 2 years and older. However, children should only use this product with adult supervision.

Biance Rosa licorice root cream

Some research states that licorice root has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It seems to prevent HSV from replicating and inhibits bacterial function.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, licorice is a food ingredient generally considered safe. However, heavy consumption during pregnancy may lead to premature labor.

A person can purchase this product, which contains naturally occurring glycyrrhizin, online and in brick-and-mortar stores such as Walmart.

The manufacturer states that people should not use this product for longer than 6 weeks.

To reduce the spread of HSV, the AAD recommends that people with cold sores avoid:

  • giving or receiving oral sex
  • sharing personal items, such as towels and toothbrushes
  • kissing, as the virus is more contagious when the blisters are open
  • touching the sores
  • sharing foods and beverages with other people

The AAD also suggests that people avoid eating acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, as these can cause pain.

A person should consider contacting a doctor if their cold sores are large, feel painful, and keep coming back.

The AAD recommends that people seek medical help if they have other health conditions, such as cancer or HIV, or take medications that suppress the immune system. This is because cold sores may not clear without treatment, and they may spread to other parts of the body.

A doctor can advise on treating cold sores and whether or not prescription medications are most suitable for the person’s needs.

When a person contracts HSV, cold sores may appear on their lips or around their mouth. These cold sores are not curable, but doctors can prescribe medications to help speed up the healing process.

People can also purchase creams and other treatments without prescriptions. These may help with reducing inflammation and pain.

Individuals with certain health conditions and those who take medications that suppress the immune system should consult a doctor if they experience a cold sore outbreak.