Cold Sore Treatments Using Stuff You Have at Home

Cold sore treatments using household items.
Cold sore treatments using household items.

Easy Home Remedies

Today's a great day for a cold sore—not! If you're feeling that burning or tingling sensation on your lip and can't get to the doctor or the store right away, read on for some treatments to help prevent cold sores from developing using things you probably already have in your home. If your cold sore has already blistered, then skip down to the bottom part of this article for ways to care for cold sores using items you likely already own.

Treat this article as you would advice from a friend. Try one or several of the tips below. Do what feels right for you. These tips are things that have worked for and are recommended by ordinary people.

Cold sores generally clear up on their own within 5-14 days. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends you seek medical advice if:

  • Your immune system is compromised by a pre-existing health condition.
  • Your cold sores do not clear up within two weeks.
  • You are a frequent cold sore sufferer.
  • Your eyes become irritated with your cold sore outbreak.

Treat the Tingle as Soon as Possible: What to Do When You Feel a Cold Sore Coming on

What to do when you feel the tingle of a cold sore coming on (hint: don't touch it).
What to do when you feel the tingle of a cold sore coming on (hint: don't touch it).

Of course, the best cold sore treatment involves maintaining your immune system so you're not vulnerable to outbreaks. Unfortunately, if you feel a cold sore coming on, the maintenance ship has sailed, and you either missed the boat or got tossed overboard at some point. I'll cover maintenance and prevention in another article. Don't worry—all is not lost! There are a number of effective home remedies to help prevent or shorten the appearance of Mt. Vesuvius on your lip.

For best results, begin treating your cold sore as soon as you even think you feel a persistent tingle or burning on an area of your lip or nose. As with many other illnesses, early detection and treatment are key to success.

When you first feel the onset of a cold sore:

  • Ice—Immediately ice the area for as long as you can tolerate the cold for up to 10-15 minutes, maximum. Allow the area to warm up, then repeat—doing this several times may prevent your cold sore from erupting. If you still experience an outbreak, early icing may help limit tissue damage from your cold sore. If your lip is irritated or dried out from the ice, apply liquid Vitamin E on the area. If you have Vitamin E capsules, you can pierce one and use the liquid inside.
  • Rubbing alcohol—As an alternative to ice, apply rubbing alcohol to the tingling area with a cotton swab several times a day. Hold the swab on the tingling area until it feels "hot." Do not re-use the cotton swab!
  • Hands off—Avoid touching the tingling spot with your hands and wash your hands immediately before and after applying medication or treatment. You can spread the virus through kissing or by touching the area, and the contact can further irritate the sore.
  • Aloe vera—Rub juice from an aloe vera plant on the tingling area. Aloe gel also works. Aloe may prevent the sore from growing.
  • Toothpaste—Apply toothpaste (not gel) on the affected area.
  • Stay healthy—Maintain a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Make sure you're getting your recommended daily allowance of Vitamins A and B. In addition, about 30 mg of Zinc and 2000-3000 mg of Lysine daily can help get rid of cold sores.
  • Maybe nail polish remover—Only use this tip with extreme caution and never on sensitive, blistered, or open skin because it may cause scarring. Some people apply fingernail polish remover to their cold sore. Use a clean cotton swab to apply and discard the swab after use. The nail polish remover will have a strong odor and may burn. Try to leave it on for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and soreness. Clean the nail polish remover off your lip and apply Nyquil on the area to soothe the remaining discomfort.

Get Rid of a Cold Sore Fast: What to Do When It Won't Go Down

Dab gel deodorant on your cold sore with a q-tip or cotton ball to help make it go away.
Dab gel deodorant on your cold sore with a q-tip or cotton ball to help make it go away.

Once your cold sore has blistered, the following are a few home remedies to help send it packing. Some of the tips above may be helpful as well. Using ice packs and applying toothpaste to the sore can minimize the duration of the blister. Obviously, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and taking precautions not to spread your cold sore virus apply throughout the blistering phase as well.

  • Tea bags—Pour boiling water over an ordinary tea bag and steep for several minutes. The cheapest black tea bags you can find should work fine. Allow the tea bag to cool, then hold it against your cold sore. Repeat a few times a day to aid in healing the sore.
  • Whole milk—Use a whole milk compress at room temperature on the cold sore. Wash the area afterward.
  • Table salt—Pick up table salt with your finger or a moist cotton swab and press into the sore twice daily for about a minute at a time.
  • Deodorant—At night, apply gel antiperspirant, or deodorant, to the sore. The antiperspirant will dry the sore while the deodorant is an antibacterial and will help prevent further infection.
  • Mud mask—Use a mud-mask product at night to help dry the sore. During the day, mix the mud-mask with a little lipstick to camouflage the sore and prevent oozing.
  • Honey or cornstarch—Apply honey or a cornstarch paste to the sore.
  • Witch hazel or spirit of camphor—Apply witch hazel or spirit of camphor to the sore.
  • Petroleum jelly or lip balm—Use petroleum jelly or unflavored lip balm with at least SPF 15 to protect your cold sore and your lips from the sun and wind. This may also help prevent the blister from forming a scab, which will reduce the length of the outbreak. Lip balms containing lemon extract have also been said to help. You may want to use a clean finger or a cotton swab to apply lip balm to your cold sore to avoid spreading the virus to another part of your mouth. Be especially careful not to break any skin or rupture the blister.
  • New toothbrush—Be careful not to touch or irritate your cold sore when brushing your teeth. To help prevent reinfection, change your toothbrush once the blister is gone.
  • Stress relief—Many people believe stress is a trigger for cold sores. If you feel especially stressed just before or during a cold sore outbreak, make sure you are taking good care of yourself and deploy your favorite stress-busting techniques.

As a long-time cold sore sufferer myself, I have never had a cold sore come at a convenient time. Try one or a few of the tips above when you feel that dreaded tingling sensation on your lip. Maybe it's late at night, the kids are asleep, and your spouse is out of town, making a trip to a doctor, the pharmacy, or a store just out of the question. If you need to use supplies already around the house, each of these tips has proven effective for some people, and chances are, one of them will work for you.

Helpful Sites:

  • Cold Sore—Mayo Clinic
    This overview covers the symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention of the common lip sore. It also mentions an over-the-counter medication, Abreva.
  • Cold Sores—Web MD
    This site provides information about cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, and their home and medical treatments.
  • Cold Sores (Mouth Herpes)—HC Support Network
    This site answers a lot of questions you may have about what causes cold sores and their recurrence, what distinguishes them from similar conditions, and how to treat them.

Anonymous Cold Sore Poll

How many cold sores do you typically get in a year?

  • 5 or more
  • 3 or 4
  • 1 or 2
  • Less than 1
  • Fortunately, none!
See results without voting

Comments 17 comments

shoes luvr 7 years ago from Boston, Mass

I never knew about the ice and rubbing alcohol treatment for cold sores. Very practical tips here. I found a great article written by an MD on oral herpes which was useful:

coldsore clear up 6 years ago

just pop the sore with a pin cleaned with isocol.then dip a cotton bud in isocol and dap it on the coldsore,it may sting but that's the isocol killing the germ.this will clear the coldsore up with in 4 hours...

yuvi 5 years ago

Yeah ice seems to work. I don't get them a lot but when I do its very emvarrassing... you feel like everyone is looking at you and saying ewwww..... I found this site very interesting thank you! :)

klo 5 years ago

i've used perfume directly onto to sore a fair few times, i guess the alcohol helps dry it out. am envious of lip sufferes, i get 3-4 all over my nose and upper lip every 6-8 weeks, and they are impossible to hide. my life is spent trying to escape them!

aks 5 years ago

famvir is the only thing that works for me.. expensive but works.. must be prescribes tho :(

melissa 5 years ago

I get them alll the time, I basically have to use abreva as chapstick before I sleep, I'm going to the doctor to get a perscription, I've been getting them ever since I was really young, and now I get them at least once a month.

I think my body is immune to the abreva now but it is the NUMBER ONE best cream to fight cold sores from experience, I leave it on thick as soon as I feel one coming on and they usually dont turn into a cold sore, and if they do it is tiny.

I find though, when I am eating healthy and get plenty of water and sleep, I can go 3 months without getting one. So stay healthy !

nikki 4 years ago

im really tired of getting cold sores i been getting them since i was young i notice that i only get them when im not getting enough sleep or even not eating well first time on this sites THANKS FOR THE TIPS!!!!

Chaz 4 years ago

The VERY BEST AND QUICKEST way to rid yourself of a cold sore is oral zovirax!!!! Four days in a row, take four 200mg. By the first dose, it stops the cold sore virus DEAD in it's tracks!!! Took years to figure this out!!!!!

bec_y 4 years ago

Giving ice a try, nail polish sounds scary. Maybe even the salt tip too.;

paula 4 years ago

I numb them with sunburn spray then apply bleach with a qtip. They never come back to the same spot.

4 years ago

Thank you for the advice. I will be trying all of these tips. Thanks again!

Jasmine 3 years ago

I'm 19, this is my first cold sore and i spotted it this morning. I put ice on it and the toothpaste thing. I'm kind of tempted to try all of the remedies. Thanks for all the advice, I sure will be going though ALL OF THESE until its gone.

flefroganna 3 years ago

My spouse and i used to acquire on top of lifestyle however of late We have developed any resistance.

Shelley Shaw 3 years ago

Famvir is one of the only way to get rid of cold sores,its by prescription only and is very expensive but works like a charm,I had terrible cold sores since I was very young and had them almost constantly,they would get huge not only on my lip but also under my nose and on my chin.I tried everything you could imagine spent a fortune on drug store cures only wasting my money.As soon as you feel that little tingle take famvir and about 4 pills per day for a couple of days and it won't amount to anything it just kills it off at the root or something I don't know how it works but always have it with you since they come on with no warning.

Famvir was originally used for Shingles and this is a distant cousin to cold sores so it make sense.

Lugz 2 years ago

There is a cure, we'll kinda. It's called Seacret mud mask. All natural from the Dead Sea. I use to get two or three breakouts a year but as soon as I feel a symptom I apply and it never has a chance. It's amazing

Alex 2 years ago

I highly recommend trying and researching BHT. ( Using BHT and Lysine I've been able to get "rid of it" in 3 days (there are still red dots left, but no more sensation of tingle/itching, and the worse is over, just healing the skin from day 4 on). BHT is commonly available as a food preservative. BHT has been shown in cell culture and animal studies to inactivate herpes virus. For me it works better than Zovirax and BHT has the advantage to be available over the counter and cheap. Also, I have no side effects with BHT vs what I had with prescription drugs (acyclovir and zovirax).

I take 2-3 pills, 200-400mg (don't take more than 1g/day). At the begining, I disolve BHT in warm oil so it absorbs faster.

Don't use BHT by itself. Complement with Lysine and plain yogurt. Some say a bit of Vitamin C helps, but most BHT already comes with Vitamin C, so you're set.

Also, Melissa tea can help relax. Otherwise a low strength aspirin helps too.

Just as important as what to do, is what to AVOID! If you research Lysine, you'll see that eating nuts, sugar, chocolate, cereal, and corn-based foods has the opposite effect, so cut down on those to help healing faster.

On day 4, once you feel it's over, continue to use things such as vitamin E (you can cut up a liquid capsule and apply on the lips) to help the skin heal. Good luck!

Jimmie 2 years ago

I've used ice successfully when I can catch it early enough and have access to ice it usually goes away without breaking out. If I take Lysine regularly I do not get them as often also, maybe I'll try the alcohol or Seacret Mud Mask next time. I just looked up the BHT and looks like it may be dangerous in high doses...

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