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You’re sitting in a very nice restaurant, having a wonderful dinner with great company and suddenly you feel that all-too-familiar tingling, itchy sensation on your lip. UGH! It’s the dreaded first sign of a cold sore, also known as a fever blister. These blisters are painful, ugly, and unfortunately, very common. How to combat them comes with these pesky pests and, to squash the discomfort, you’ll want one of the best cold sore treatments on hand.

What exactly is a cold sore? How do they happen? The viral infection that results in clusters of fluid-filled blisters around the mouth and on the lips is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV.) There are two types, HSV-1 and HSv-2, which are both very contagious and easily spread by close contact. HSV-1 is more common and the usual cause of fever blisters. Unfortunately, once you have been exposed to HSV, it lives in your body forever. It remains dormant until triggered to activate. A recent report tells us that there’s evidence of HSV being present 5,000 years ago and could be linked to the first romantic kisses between humans!  

Currently, there is no known cure for HSV.  However, there is positive news about a potential vaccine that can minimize the symptoms of genital herpes and lower the risk of spreading the virus. The biggest challenge to finding a cure for HSV has been the ability of the virus to hide from the immune system. “You can keep the virus from getting into the nervous system,” said University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher Gary Pickard, in a recent study. “That’s not that hard to do by making broadly debilitating mutations.” According to the research, the genetically-modified version of HSV-1 has been rewired to keep it from hiding in the nervous system and escaping the body’s natural immune response. 

If you have already experienced one of these cold sores, or want to try to prevent an occurrence, you will be interested in the current treatment options to help manage symptoms. So, what are the top five medications to seek out? StudyFinds used nine expert websites to research and compile our list of the best cold sore treatments on the market. If you have a favorite treatment that didn’t make our list, please share it in the comments below.

The List: Best Cold Sore Treatments, According To Experts

1. Abreva 

Verywell Health ranked Abreva as their top pick: “When applied upon the first tingle, it eliminates pain, itching, and burning and knocks out the cold sore in as few as two and a half days.” This over-the-counter treatment is the only FDA-approved non-prescription medication currently on the market and it is safe for children 12 and over.

“The over-the-counter cold sore ointment docosanol (Abreva) may shorten the healing time of a cold sore. At the first sign of symptoms, apply it to the affected skin as directed on the package. Use a cotton-tipped swab to put medicine on a cold sore. This helps prevent the spread of the sores to other parts of your body,” The Mayo Clinic recommends.

Best Reviews chose it as their ultimate top pick. “Don’t be deceived by the small tubes these come in — Abreva is very concentrated and a little goes a long way.”

2. Acyclovir

Also known as Zovirax, Acyclovir is a prescription treatment that can be taken daily as a preventative measure. It is an antiviral drug that treats infections caused by herpes viruses. Acyclovir will help sores heal faster and provides pain relief.

Verywell Health notes, “Prescription topical anti-viral creams can reduce the severity and duration of a cold sore. The most effective are penciclovir and acyclovir and should be started ASAP at the first signs.”

“Zovirax is the brand name of an antiviral drug called acyclovir, which inhibits the activity of HSV-1, HSV-2, and the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Acyclovir inserts itself into a virus’s DNA and prevents it from replicating,” states Medical News Today.

Warnings for taking this medication include drug interactions, taking as prescribed, and starting immediately when symptoms begin. 

3. Valacyclovir

Similar to Acyclovir, this treatment is prescription only and treats the same types of viruses. However, it is advised that this medication should be taken daily at consistent intervals as it “works best when the amount of medicine in your body is kept at a constant level,” according to The brand name for Valacyclovir is Valtrex.

Medical News Today writes, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Valtrex to treat cold sores in adults and children ages 12 years and older. The recommended dosage for treating cold sores is two 2-gram (g) doses of Valtrex, which a person should take 12 hours apart….People living with HIV or other immune-compromising conditions will need a 500-mg dose twice per day.”

4. Famciclovir

Unlike the two previous treatments, Famciclovir (or Famvir) is only available in generic pill form. It is also used to treat most viral infections caused by HSV. Healthline says that Famciclovir is prescribed to people with strong immune systems and also to people who have HIV. The more severe possible side effects of this medication are dizziness, confusion, and sleepiness.

“In a study of 701 adults with recurring cold sores, the participants who took a single 1,500-mg dose of Famvir had an average healing time of 4.4 days. This was about 2 days shorter than the healing time in the placebo group,” says Medical News Today.

 5. Lysine

The Mayo Clinic lists Lysine as an alternative medicine treatment and describes it as “an amino acid…available as an oral supplement and as a cream.” 

According to Rocketfacts, Lysine disrupts the absorption of arginine, another amino acid that helps HSV reproduce and grow. It is effective in minimizing outbreaks and reducing healing time after blister eruption. Taken regularly, say as a preventative treatment, it can increase your protein intake to supplement a healthy diet. That’s a win-win! 

According to CPOE Wellness Clinic, you can find Lysine in Herpecin HL 30, a brand name cream that “combines lysine, lemon balm, and a variety of supporting ingredients to thwart the activity of the HSV-1 virus and facilitate fast, effective healing. You will get near-immediate relief from tingling and irritation, and your lips will feel great too.”

So, if you are unlucky enough to have to deal with a cold sore, you now have a list to guide you in finding the treatment that works best for you! As always, consult with your doctor for medical guidance before trying any of these.


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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Kristi Olivares

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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1 Comment

  1. Tom Cool says:

    I think that wireless phones break down the blood brain barrier right by the ear. This allows herpes virus to enter the brain. Once there, it mutates cells and causes damage. The brain repair system builds amyloid plaque around the damage. Then you get Alzheimer’s. The brain cell mutations greatly increase the risk of a cancer cell developing and starting a new tumor there.
    Hydrogen peroxide injections may help but not cure it. Vitamin C injections may help but I had no success with that. Reishi mushrooms turn the immune system on but will not cure it. Use Reishi Mushrooms after the tumor has been operated on to clean up any straggler cancer cells.
    Olive Leaf Extract helps control viruses. A supplement called Herp-Eaze from Olympia Labs helped save my life but did not cure me completely. I am still alive 23 years after my tumor. I got zero help from my regular physician.