😌😫😴 This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS and by wikiHow staff writer, Janice Tieperman. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Tennessee in 2006.
There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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😌😫😴 Cold sores are a frustrating flare-up around your lips that form due to the herpes simplex virus. These blisters are filled with fluid, but dry out and form a scab, or crust, along the edge of your lip after a few days.XResearch source While cold sore scabs will heal and go away on their own, you can try a few different remedies to make the healing process more comfortable.
Method 1Method 1 of 2:Treating Your Cold Sore
- 1Cover your cold sore scab with a cool compress or ice to reduce swelling and speed up healing. Soak a clean cloth or paper towel in cool water, then wring out the extra water. Fold the cloth or towel in half and drape it over your scab for a few minutes to keep it from itching or burning. After you hold the compress in place, you may notice flecks of the crusty scab begin to peel or lift away.XResearch source
- Do this on an as-needed basis, depending on how often your cold sore bothers you.
- This helps reduce any temptation to scratch or pick at your scab, which can make the healing process a lot longer.
- You can also apply a little ice to help ease the discomfort.
- 2Dab petroleum jelly over the crusty area. Scoop up a pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly with a clean cotton swab and apply it directly to the scab. Spread the jelly over the entire scab to hydrate it so it's less visible and heals faster. Try doing this once a day, or whenever your skin feels dry.XResearch source
- You can find petroleum jelly at a pharmacy, or any store that sells beauty or first aid supplies.
- Don’t use your finger to apply the petroleum jelly, as you don’t want to spread germs. If you do use your finger, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before using the jelly.
- 3Cover your cold sore with an over-the-counter ointment so it doesn’t last as long. Pick up a small tube of cold sore ointment, such as ABREVA, at your local pharmacy and apply it over the surface of your scabbed cold sore. Check the instructions to see how often you need to apply the ointment. Over a few days, you may notice your cold sore scab healing more quickly.XResearch source
- You can apply most of these ointments up to 5 times a day. Dab a small amount onto your cold sore to get relief.
- Cold sore ointments don’t have a drastic impact on the healing process, but you may notice a positive difference.
- ABREVA is the only FDA-approved over-the-counter treatment for cold sores in the U.S. This medication can soothe your pain and may speed up the healing process.XResearch source
😌😫😴 Tip: You can also look for antiviral creams and gels containing "aciclovir" or "penciclovir." If you take these when you first start showing symptoms, you may be able to get rid of your cold sores more quickly.XTrustworthy SourcePubMed CentralJournal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of HealthGo to source
- 4Talk to a doctor about taking an oral antiviral medication. See if your doctor would be willing to write you a prescription for an antiviral tablet, or if they have another treatment suggestion. Mention any medication allergies or ongoing medical conditions you’re dealing with, so your doctor can make an informed decision.XTrustworthy SourcePubMed CentralJournal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of HealthGo to source
- Call your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of a cold sore coming on, such as a burning or tingling sensation on your lip. The earlier you start the antiviral treatment, the more effective it will be.XTrustworthy SourceHarvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School's Educational Site for the PublicGo to source
- If you suspect that your cold sore is infected, see if a healthcare professional can prescribe you some antibiotics to help.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service (UK)Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
- 5Manage your pain with over-the-counter medications. If your cold sore is causing you a lot of pain or discomfort, pain medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) can help. Follow the directions on the package, and never take more than the recommended amount.XResearch source
- These medications are safe for most people when taken correctly, but talk to your doctor if you have any health concerns. For example, you may need to get your doctor’s advice if you are pregnant, using blood-thinning medications, or have problems with your liver or stomach.XTrustworthy SourceFamilyDoctor.orgFamily-focused medical advice site run by the American Academy of Family DoctorsGo to source
Method 2Method 2 of 2:Protecting Your Skin
- 1Apply sunscreen and protective lip ointment on your cold sore crust if you’re going outside. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water so you don’t spread any germs to your crusty cold sore. Lightly cover the sore with a layer of sunscreen, which may keep you from getting new cold sores in the long run. You can also use a protective lip ointment or balm, especially one that has sun protection. Take time to protect your cold sore before you go outside so your skin doesn’t scar eventually.XResearch source
- Like any other part of your skin, you don’t want to leave your cold sore unprotected when you go outside. Since cold sores can be triggered by sunny or windy weather, you want to protect yourself as much as possible.
😌😫😴 Tip: Check that your sunscreen has a minimum SPF of 15!XResearch source
- 2Wear lip balm on a daily basis to protect your lips. Get in the habit of putting a thin layer of lip balm on once a day, or whenever your lips feel dry.XResearch source For extra protection, look into lip balms with SPF protection built in.XTrustworthy SourceAmerican Academy of DermatologyProfessional organization made of over 20,000 certified dermatologistsGo to source
- 3Avoid picking at the scab with your fingers. Scabs can get bothersome and itchy, and the temptation to pick, peel, and scratch at the edges of your crusty cold sore. If your cold sore is really bothering you, take a painkiller like ibuprofen, or use an over-the-counter cream.XResearch source
- 4Don’t eat foods that may irritate your cold sore scab. Adjust your diet if you’re a big fan of spicy, acidic, and salty snacks or beverages. Switch to simpler, more subtly seasoned food while you wait for your cold sore to heal completely. If your cold sore scab gets irritated, it may take longer to heal.XResearch source
- For instance, instead of eating buffalo chicken, switch to chicken lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Stay away from acidic drinks, like citrus juices and sodas.
- 5Don’t kiss or share drinks while your cold sore is scabbing. While cold sores aren’t that harmful, they are contagious if you share drinks, kiss, or do anything that causes your cold sore to touch another person. Even if your cold sore is scabbed over, give yourself plenty of space, and avoid sharing food and drinks until the cold sore heals completely.XResearch source
- Sharing drinks may expose you to other germs, which may cause you to come down with a cold or other contagious illness.
- Don’t share personal items, like eating utensils, towels, or razors, with other people while your sore is healing.
- Anxiety, stress, and exhaustion can all weaken your immune system and trigger a cold sore outbreak.XTrustworthy SourceHarvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School's Educational Site for the PublicGo to source To help keep your cold sores in check, get plenty of rest and do activities that help you manage your stress level, such as meditating or working on relaxing hobbies.
- Try not to rub any creams or jellies over your scabbed cold sore, as this may irritate the skin. Lightly pat or dab these products on instead.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service (UK)Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
- Take a painkiller like ibuprofen or Tylenol if your cold sore is bothering you.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service (UK)Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
- Don’t have oral sex with your partner until your cold sore is completely healed. Even if it’s scabbed and crusty, you can still risk spreading the herpes simplex virus.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service (UK)Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
- Avoid sharing any lip makeup with your friends and family members, as this could spread the virus.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service (UK)Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
Things You’ll Need
- Petroleum jelly
- Cotton swab
- Cool compress
- Cloth or paper towel
- Sunscreen lip balm
- Cold sore ointment