Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

Creams to treat the symptoms can be soothing, as can ice on the blisters. Simple painkillers may occasionally be required. Povidone-iodine ointments (commonly known as Betadine) can be dabbed onto the cold sores and may reduce symptoms in some people.

You only need to visit your pharmacist if you’re unsure whether it’s a cold sore or if it’s severe and spreading further than just the lip. See your pharmacist if a cold sore hasn’t healed after 7 to 10 days.

You may not have any symptoms when you first become infected with the herpes simplex virus. An outbreak of cold sores may happen some time later.

Cold Sore Stages: Identification and Treatment

Cold sores

Cold sores

If you develop the herpes simplex virus at an early age, it may be triggered periodically in later life and can cause recurring bouts of cold sores. After the primary infection, the symptoms are usually reduced to just the cold sores themselves.

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Preventing infection

HSV-1 lives in your nerves. It’s pretty quiet most of the time, but you may have triggers that bring it out of hiding and cause cold sores. They can range from sunlight or a fever to stress and getting your period. Some people get cold sores twice a year or less. For others, it’s a monthly ordeal.

Page last reviewed: 20 July 2020
Next review due: 20 July 2023

Antiviral tablets may be prescribed for severe cases.

Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

Cold Sore Healing Stages With Pictures | Zovirax AU

Cold sores are contagious from the moment you first feel tingling or other signs of a cold sore coming on to when the cold sore has completely healed.

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When Should You See a Doctor?

The herpes simplex virus – or ‘cold sore virus’ – is highly contagious and can be easily passed from person to person by close direct contact. After someone has contracted the virus, it remains inactive (dormant) most of the time.

Children under the age of 16 shouldn’t be given aspirin.

Cold sores

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When Are You Contagious?

If you or your child still has symptoms of gingivostomatitis after 2 weeks or the infection is severe your pharmacist may advise you to contact your GP, who may refer you for specialist treatment.

Corey, L. New England Journal of Medicine, 1986.

Cold sore

Fever Blister

About two-thirds of us have been infected with the HSV-1 virus. It usually comes via well-meaning kisses from relatives or romantic partners. So why do only an unlucky few get cold sores? The answer may be in your genes. Most of the people who get cold sores share genes that may relate to how HSV-1 acts in your body. This could be what causes outbreaks.

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Where to get help

If you regularly get cold sores, use antiviral creams as soon as you recognise the early tingling feeling. They do not always work after blisters appear.

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