There is no cure for
cold sores, nor is there a cure for the
herpes simplex virus (HSV) that causes them. Most cold
sores will go away on their own. But medicines may slightly reduce the duration
of cold sores and sometimes prevent a future outbreak.
with medicines depends on whether you are having a first outbreak or a
recurrent outbreak or are trying to prevent future outbreaks.
treating a first outbreak of cold sores,
oral antiviral medicines may reduce pain and slightly improve healing
For treatment of recurrent cold sores, the following
medicines may reduce the severity and duration of the outbreak:1
Topical creams or ointments, which are
available with or without a prescription, can reduce pain, itching, and healing
Oral antiviral medicines, which are available by
prescription only, may be used when the first symptoms (such as burning or
itching) begin. These medicines have little effect after the sore
Oral antivirals may also be taken daily to prevent
recurring cold sores, especially in people who have frequent and painful
If you have a
weakened immune system and develop cold sores, you may
need higher doses of these medicines to control your symptoms or daily doses to
Although it is rare, children and adults with
weakened immune systems may also need to take
antibiotics during severe episodes of cold sores to
bacterial infections that may develop.
The first episode of cold sores
can be so painful that you may have trouble eating, drinking, and sleeping.
A child who has a fever and many mouth sores may need to be encouraged to drink
water and other fluids to prevent
Adults and older children
who have a painful first episode of cold sores may sometimes need a
prescription-strength medicated mouth rinse to reduce pain.
complementary medicine treatments are available if you wish to try an
alternative way to ease your symptoms.
Vitamin C, lysine supplements, and lemon balm are examples of complementary treatments that may provide some
relief during a cold sore outbreak. Vitamin C may be taken as an oral tablet, in a cream that can be put on the cold sore (topical cream), or as liquid vitamin C applied to the cold sore. Lysine supplements are taken as pills, and lemon balm is available in a topical cream.
Zinc oxide topical cream may reduce the duration of an outbreak.1