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How To Treat a Cold Sore


Updated April 28, 2014

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. While nothing will make a cold sore heal faster, certain treatments can make them feel better.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: A week to 10 days

Here's How:

  1. Stay Safe. If you are not the victim, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.


  2. Cold sores are contagious. The victim should not kiss anyone or share food or drinks for as long as the cold sore is visible. The victim should also wash his or her hands after touching the cold sore. Especially avoid touching eyes and genitals after touching a cold sore; it's easy to spread the virus to these areas.


  3. This is a virus - antibiotic ointments will not affect cold sores. Use petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) or lip balms to keep the cold sore moist. Keeping it moist will help prevent cracking and bleeding. Wash hands after every application, and do not use sticks or other reusable applicators.


  4. If the cold sore is not healing after 10 days, contact a doctor.



  1. Herpes virus stays dormant in the nerves after an outbreak and can return. Try to identify triggers - such as bright sun or stress - that bring about outbreaks. Avoid triggers to prevent cold sores.


  2. Ice may help with pain from cold sores. One cool way to help a cold sore is to eat a popsicle.


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