Skip to content

Creams and Ointments for Cold Sores

Font Size

Topic Overview

Topical products, such as creams or gels, are sometimes used to treat cold sores. Many are prescription medicines that may slightly shorten the duration of cold sores, usually by just 1 to 2 days.1

Some experts find that even when nonprescription topical products are used frequently—every 2 hours while a person is awake—at the first sign of an outbreak, they may only speed recovery time by a few hours or a day.2

Recommended Related to Skin Problems & Treatments

Is Your Excessive Sweating Caused by a Medical Problem?

Do you sweat more than other people? Does a five-minute workout on the treadmill leave you sopping wet? Do you wipe your hand before every handshake? At the very least, excessive sweating is a hassle. But sometimes heavy sweating is sign of a medical condition. "It's not always easy for the average person to know the difference," says Benjamin Barankin, MD, a dermatologist in Toronto and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, can be a warning...

Read the Is Your Excessive Sweating Caused by a Medical Problem? article > >

Prescription creams and ointments

Penciclovir cream (Denavir) is an antiviral cream that may reduce healing time by 1 to 2 days, especially if the cold sore was triggered by sunlight exposure. It also reduces the pain, itching, burning, and tenderness of cold sores.1

Penciclovir cream may cause side effects such as mild pain or stinging when it is applied. It is possible, although rare, that the cream may also cause a skin rash or headache.

Acyclovir ointment or cream works best if it is used at the first sign of cold sore symptoms. Side effects of the ointment may include mild pain or stinging at the site where it is applied.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acyclovir cream to treat recurrent cold sores in people older than age 12. The cream can improve healing time by up to half a day. The cream may cause temporary skin irritation.

Nonprescription creams and ointments

Tetracaine cream (Viractin) and lidocaine (Zilactin-L) are topical anesthetics that can relieve the pain and itching of cold sores. These products are applied to cold sores up to 6 times a day for best results. Pain and itching are relieved usually within 2 to 3 days after a person first applies the product.

Docosanol 10% (Abreva) should be applied at the first signs of a cold sore outbreak. It is the first nonprescription cold sore medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to shorten healing time and the duration of symptoms.

Benzyl alcohol (Zilactin) is a gel that relieves the pain of cold sores and may help shorten healing time, especially if it is used as soon as a cold sore begins to form.

Dimethicone with sunscreen (Herpecin-L) is a product that moisturizes your lips and protects them from the sun. This can help reduce the pain and itching of cold sores. It can also help prevent cold sores from returning, especially if they were triggered by sun exposure.

Cold sores usually heal on their own without prescription medicines or complementary therapies.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Creams and Ointments for Cold Sores Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.