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Cold sores - What treatments work for cold sores?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Cold sores usually clear up without any treatment in seven to 10 days. But there are certain treatments that may help prevent and treat attacks.

  • Using a sunscreen on your mouth and lips when you're outside is likely to help reduce the chances that you'll get a cold sore, because sunlight is a common trigger for cold sores.

  • You can try an antiviral cream as soon as you feel a cold sore coming on. But the research isn't clear about how well this treatment works.

  • Taking antiviral tablets as soon as you get cold sores might help to reduce your symptoms and help your cold sores heal. But tablets are only prescribed to people who have a weak immune system or who get a very severe attack of cold sores. Children may also be treated with antiviral tablets.

  • If you take antiviral tablets when you don't have any cold sores, they can reduce the risk of getting cold sores. But tablets are only prescribed for people who get very bad attacks of cold sores.

Which treatments work best? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works.

Treatments for cold sores

Treatments that are likely to work Treatments that need further study Other treatments

We haven't looked at the research on this treatment in as much detail as we've looked at the research on most of the treatments we cover. (To read more, see Our method.) But we've included some information because you may have heard of it or be interested in it.

Glossary

immune system

Your immune system is made up of the parts of your body that fight infection. When bacteria or viruses get into your body, it's your immune system that kills them. Antibodies and white blood cells are part of your immune system. They travel in your blood and attack bacteria, viruses and other things that could damage your body.

For more terms related to Cold sores

Citations

For references related to Cold sores click here.
Last Updated: September 18, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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