Skip to content

    Creams and Ointments for Cold Sores

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    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

    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: June 04, 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.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    No gym workout
    Moves to help control blood sugar.
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    acupuncture needle on shoulder
    10 tips to look and feel good.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    pacemaker next to xray
    Treatment options.
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.