Relieve Pain Associated with Cold Sores
Cold sores are painful and uncomfortable. A cold compress relieves pain as a home treatment, much like it would for any type of injury. Press an ice pack or a cool wet towel against the sore to reduce pain, swelling and redness in the area. Repeat as necessary for 10 minutes at a time throughout the day to feel better. Additionally, over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help with discomfort. Lidocaine creams also relieve pain but just in the area of the cold sore. However, none of these medications help make a cold sore go away.
Over-the-Counter Cold Sore Treatments
Because cold sores are so common, several over-the-counter treatments are available. One of the most common is Docosanal, which goes by the brand name Abreva. This cream is the only FDA approved treatment to shorten the healing time of a cold sore, and it's often rated as the best treatment. It starts working right away and can make the sore disappear in as little as two and a half days. Apply the cream directly to the sore five times per day for up to 10 days.
Not all cold sores respond to over-the-counter treatments. In these instances, your doctor can prescribe a stronger medication. Some of the most common medications — available in pill or cream form — are acyclovir, valacyclovir, famiciclovir and penciclovir. These are all antiviral medications that help kill the virus. In some instances, doctors inject antiviral medications into the affected area. These treatments don't work overnight, but they are strong antiviral medications that work quickly to get rid of cold sores in a matter of days.
Avoid Cold Sore Irritants
Some foods and drinks can aggravate cold sores, increasing pain and lengthening the time it takes for them to heal. Hot beverages, spicy, salty and acidic foods all irritate the open sores. It might also be tempting to scratch the cold sore. Because the virus is highly contagious, it's important to wash your hands immediately after touching a cold sore. Avoid touching other body parts — especially your eyes — and don't touch other people.