How to Heal a Cold Sore: The Best Way to Stop Them Fast
If you suffer from recurring cold sores, you know these ulcers can form at any time with little to no warning, even if you deliberately avoid situations and environments that can trigger an outbreak.
A cold sore, or fever blister, is more than an unsightly annoyance — these painful blisters can cause a lot of discomfort and disrupt your life. A cold sore can take weeks to heal, and during this time, you’re stuck dealing with pain, irritation, and embarrassment.
In your quest to discover how to heal a cold sore fast, you may have heard of all kinds of remedies, ointments, and medications. But which are most effective for frequent or occasional fever blisters?
Here, we’ll review the most popular healing techniques for this type of lesion and help you identify the best options for your situation.
What Is a Cold Sore?
A cold sore is a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (or HSV-1).
A cold sore, also called oral herpes, forms from a series of small blisters filled with fluid on or around your lips. These fluid-filled blisters cluster together, appearing to be one large ulcer. Note that cold sores almost always form on the outside rather than inside of the mouth, unlike canker sores, which form inside the mouth only.
The life of an oral herpes outbreak can be measured in five stages:
- In the first stage, you may feel a tingly, itchy, or even burning sensation on your lips or around your mouth. This is the first sign a fever blister is coming.
- The second stage is when you see the blister form. It becomes tender to the touch and may hurt. The blister is contagious, so try your best not to touch it, even if it itches.
- The fluid-filled blister pops, releasing the fluid inside. During this time, the cold sore is extremely contagious. Again, do not touch or pick at the area. Keep it clean and dry, and if you need to touch it to apply medication or ointment, wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
- The blister becomes crusty and forms a scab over the infected area. This scab protects the skin beneath while it heals.
- Finally, the scab and crusty bits fall off, revealing smooth, healed skin underneath. Pulling the scab off prematurely can spread the virus and prolong the sore’s healing time, so avoid touching or scratching the area.
Now that we’ve reviewed the stages of this type of lesion, let’s explore their average healing time and how to heal a cold sore fast.
It’s true that cold sores heal on their own. In some cases, though, the natural healing process can take up to four weeks. In that time, you experience uncomfortable tingling, pain, itching, burning, and, during some stages, oozing and crusting.
In rare cases, leaving cold sores untreated may lead to complications, especially if you have a weak immune system.
As mentioned above, don’t touch the cold sore while it heals.
Popping a fever blister is never a good idea, either. It doesn’t speed up healing; in fact, the lesion takes longer to heal. Popping a cold sore can also lead to additional blisters and/or an even worse infection.
Instead of popping your cold sores, you can simply learn how to heal a cold sore fast.
How to Heal a Cold Sore Fast
Anecdotal evidence and clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of a few remedies, which we’ll review below.
Here’s a tip: If you want to heal a cold sore fast, begin your treatment as early as possible, regardless of the method you choose!
Home remedies can ease some of the discomfort caused by a cold sore, but in most cases, they don’t significantly reduce the healing time of your active infection.
That said, if you’d like a fever blister remedy made from the items you already have at home, here are a few of the most popular:
- Use an ice pack or washcloth with ice to create a cold compress. Hold it gently against the infected area to reduce swelling and pain.
- Mix baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the cold sore to dry out the lesion and reduce itchiness and irritation.
- Create a similar paste using cornstarch and water. Apply this paste to ease pain and reduce inflammation.
- Take advantage of the natural antiviral properties of garlic by mixing a crushed clove with olive oil. Apply this mixture to the infection three times per day for the best results.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, the aloe vera plant can supply a powerful remedy for cold sores. You can purchase aloe vera products at your local drugstore or use liquid from the leaves of your own aloe vera plant at home.
When learning how to heal a cold sore fast, you’ll find that over-the-counter treatments can make a big difference. Your local pharmacy has a variety of options for cold sore relief. Here are just a few:
- Abreva: FDA-approved to expedite the healing process.
- Orajel: Used for pain relief; eases itchiness and dryness.
- Burt’s Bees Rapid Rescue: Softens the lesion; helps relieve pain and itching.
- Compeed Cold Sore Discreet Healing Patches: Use salicylic acid and hydrocolloid to absorb blister fluid; cover and protect lesions for healing.
Additionally, you can take ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain and reduce inflammation and swelling.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to limit your cold sore outbreaks and reduce the chance of spreading the infection.
For example, valacyclovir is a prescription oral medication that prevents the herpes virus from replicating and spreading. This medication and other antiviral medications like it can ease your current symptoms while preventing new blisters from forming.
Light therapy is a quick, effective, non-invasive way to treat and prevent cold sore outbreaks, as demonstrated by clinical studies.
Research shows LED red light technology can, on average, prolong the time between cold sore outbreaks by 240+ days and significantly decrease the amount of pain experienced by a patient within a day of treatment. Similar studies demonstrate that multiple rounds of light treatment can significantly reduce the incidence of recurrent cold sores.
Luminance RED has leveraged advancements in LED technology to offer this type of treatment via a portable, handheld device. Red light therapy used in this way can reduce healing times by nearly 50% compared to an untreated cold sore.
When using a light therapy device to treat your sore, your skin metabolizes the light’s energy, leading to a quicker healing process and stronger defense against future viral attacks. For best results, perform this treatment twice a day at the onset of a cold sore to heal it as quickly as possible.
How to Heal a Cold Sore Fast: Final Thoughts
When considering how to heal a cold sore fast, remember that each of the treatment options discussed above has its own strengths. Your best course of action may be to mix different types of treatments, especially if you have an active sore you’d like to heal faster.
If you’re on the fence about any cold sore treatment option, consider a product that offers a 100% money-back guarantee, such as the Luminance RED light therapy treatment device. Also, it’s never a bad idea to speak with your doctor, especially if you suffer from frequent recurrent outbreaks.