How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Quickly?

Cold sores (also called fever blisters) are small blisters that usually appear around the mouth or on lips and are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Once the virus enters your body, there is no cure or way to remove it, and it lies dormant in the cells. This means that you may experience new outbreaks or flare-ups periodically when the virus is triggered to reactivate itself.

Are cold sores contagious?

Cold sores are contagious because the HSV can easily be passed from person to person through the pus in the sores or in the saliva of an infected person. When this fluid is shared, it can infect another person. This can happen during kissing, sexual contact, or sharing items or surfaces on which the virus can survive for a short period of time.

Symptoms of cold sores

Early symptoms of cold sores include feeling burning, itching and tingling around the lips and mouth, as well as flu-like symptoms such as a headache, fever, a sore throat, swollen glands and muscle aches. 

Once the virus has taken hold, a blister will develop. Herpes simplex blisters inside the mouth can be mistaken for canker sores (or aphthous sores), particularly in young children. Although these can be painful, they are simply lesions of soft tissue and are not caused by the virus.

The blisters may ooze or weep and eventually will form a scab and crust over, and as the virus can be spread by infecting surfaces or others through touch, it is important not to touch them. They usually look unsightly and can be very sore.

How to treat cold sores?

Home remedies

Ice or cold compress

The irritation, tingling and heat that can be caused by the cold sore can be suppressed using a cold or ice compress. They can help to reduce redness, swelling and pain. Simply wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and hold it to the sore.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a plant grown in mountainous areas of southern Europe and northern Africa and is a member of the mint family. It has been reported to have several healing properties and has been used as a natural remedy for many things since the Middle Ages. It is believed that lemon balm contains essential chemical compounds that can reduce the swelling or inflammation of cold sores as well as speed up the healing process when applied several times a day. One study in Phytomedicine (1994) showed that the use of lemon balm is most effective in the early stages of the infection.1

Essential oils

There are other plants (besides lemon balm) that have chemical compounds that can be used to help inhibit the replication of the virus within cells and prevent the virus from sticking to the cell’s surface (adsorption). They, therefore, help to reduce the activity of the virus and reduce healing time. Examples of oils that have been concluded to have antiviral properties include peppermint and tea tree oil.

Aloe vera gel

A study in the Journal of Dentistry (2016) found that aloe vera gel can decrease the viral contamination of saliva and also reduce the infectivity and duration of herpetic ulcers.2 It can be used as a very effective mouthwash or gel that can be applied to cold sores to provide an effective treatment without side effects.


Propolis (also known as bee glue) is a compound that is created by bees when they mix the fluid that oozes out of injured parts of plants, trees or leaf buds (called exudate) with their saliva and beeswax to form a glue or resin-like mixture. This makes a good sealant. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2022) states that the healing property of propolis is superior to that obtained from acyclovir (a synthetic drug).3 This is because it contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which can also help to prevent future flare-ups of the virus. 


Lysine is an essential amino acid naturally found in foods rich in protein, such as meat, dairy and legumes. Therefore, diet can be a good source of support in the battle against cold sores. Like essential oils, research shows that lysine might help to prevent the replication of the HSV-1 in the cells by blocking another amino acid required by the virus to replicate called arginine. This can be found in foods such as peanuts, almonds and chocolate, so reducing your consumption of these foods might also help.

Apple cider vinegar

There have not been a sufficient number of clinical trials on apple cider vinegar as a treatment for cold sores; however, it does have antibacterial properties, but as herpes simplex is a virus, it is unlikely to have a huge effect.


Honey, similarly to propolis, has been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of cold sore flare-ups but on the lips (labial) and genital cold sores. Again, studies such as the one by the Medical Science Monitor (International Journal for Experimental and Clinical Research) have found that the application of honey to sores can reduce the average duration and healing time of the flare-ups and can help to prevent crusting of sores and pain caused by them.4

Vitamin C and Vitamin E

Vitamin C has been shown to prevent adsorption and replication of the virus in the cell, and good sources can be citrus fruits and other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E helps to reduce stress on immune cells helping them to be more efficient, and can be found in plant-based oils, nuts and seeds.

Antiviral medications

The most common antiviral medication prescribed for cold sores is called aciclovir. It is usually prescribed by a doctor as a tablet or liquid to be ingested 2-5 times a day, but a cream containing the drug can be bought from pharmacies and applied directly to the sore. Unlike natural remedies, which tend to have few or no side effects, aciclovir can sometimes cause headaches, dizziness and sickness. 

Topical creams and ointments

Creams containing essential oils, vitamins and antiviral medications as already described can be bought over the counter in pharmacies.

How to treat pain due to cold sores?

The pain from cold sores can be relieved by:

  • Using a cold compress to help reduce inflammation/swelling.
  • Taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin

Can cold sores be healed without treatment?

The first infection of the HSV is usually the worst, and so the cold sores and other symptoms may last up to three weeks. Generally, however, an outbreak or flare-up will last 1-2 weeks before it will heal itself.  

Dos and don’ts of cold sores

The dos and don'ts of having cold sores generally relate to the prevention of spreading the virus.  

Do wash hands before and after touching infected areas.

Do ensure sexual partners are aware of the infection.

Do avoid exposure to high levels of ultraviolet light.

Do not kiss or have oral, anal or vaginal sex during an attack.

Do not share personal items, such as cups, straws, toothbrushes or lipsticks.


You can only reduce the risk of catching HSV by avoiding kissing people when possible and limiting the number of sexual partners you have. Using a condom may also help to reduce the risk but not prevent the infection of the virus.

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor as soon as you think you have been infected by the HSV (when the first cold sore develops) so that other diseases that mirror its symptoms can be ruled out.  


According to the World Health Organisation, about 67% of the world's population has been infected with the herpes virus, so it may be difficult to avoid.5 However, there is a lot of research being carried out on treatments or a potential vaccine, and many treatments already available are effective in reducing the pain and duration of outbreaks.


  1. Wölbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine [Internet]. 1994 [cited 2022 Nov 23]; 1(1):25–31. Available from:
  2. Rezazadeh F, Moshaverinia M, Motamedifar M, Alyaseri M. Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In Vitro Study. J Dent (Shiraz) [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Nov 23]; 17(1):49–54. Available from:
  3. Rocha MP, Amorim JM, Lima WG, Brito JCM, Cruz Nizer WS da. Effect of honey and propolis, compared to acyclovir, against Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)-induced lesions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 23]; 287:114939. Available from:
  4. Al-Waili NS. Topical honey application vs. acyclovir for the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex lesions. Med Sci Monit. 2004; 10(8):MT94-98.
  5. Herpes simplex virus [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 23]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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