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Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear around the mouth, often in clusters. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and can be painful and unsightly. The blisters usually break open, leak a clear fluid, and then crust over before they begin to disappear. This Q&A answer provides information on the fastest ways to dry up a cold sore, to alleviate pain and shorten the healing time.
What Are Cold Sores?
Cold sores are contagious and can be spread through close personal contact, such as kissing, or by sharing items that have been in contact with the virus. They may be triggered by stress, fatigue, exposure to sunlight, hormonal changes, or a weakened immune system.
Quick Actions to Dry Up a Cold Sore
- Start Early: The best way to dry up a cold sore quickly is to start treatment as soon as you feel the tingling sensation that precedes the blister. This is known as the prodrome stage, and acting during this phase can sometimes prevent the cold sore from developing.
- Antiviral Medications: Using antiviral creams or tablets can help dry up cold sores faster. Over-the-counter creams such as acyclovir (Zovirax) or prescription antiviral medicines like valacyclovir (Valtrex) can be effective if used early.
- Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress to the sore can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Use a cloth wrapped in ice or a cold spoon and apply it to the area for about 10 minutes several times a day.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Applying a small amount diluted with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) can help to dry out the cold sore.
- Aloe Vera Gel: Aloe vera has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Applying aloe vera gel can soothe the skin, reduce redness, and help to dry out the blister.
- Zinc Oxide Gel: Zinc oxide can be effective in treating cold sores. Apply it directly to the sore to help dry it out and accelerate the healing process.
- Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Balanced Diet: Drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy diet can boost your immune system which is essential in fighting off the virus.
- Avoid picking at the cold sore as this can cause it to spread or become infected
- Avoid sharing personal items like towels, utensils, and lip balms
- Wash your hands frequently, especially if you’ve touched the cold sore
- Avoid kissing others, especially infants, if you have an active cold sore
While there is no cure for the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores, there are several methods to quickly dry up and manage them. The key is to start treatment early at the first sign of a cold sore. If you have frequent cold sores or if they are particularly painful or bothersome, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider for advice and potential prescription treatments. Remember to always follow the instructions on any medication or treatment and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
This Q&A series article is complete and was published on July 22, 2023, and last updated on July 22, 2023.