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The Top 6 OTC Cold Sore Treatments Compared

OTC cold sore treatment

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are common but bothersome viral infections that develop around the mouth. Though cold sores aren’t dangerous, they’re often painful and unsightly. 

Many over-the-counter cold sore treatments are formulated to treat cold sore outbreaks. There’s no cure for this type of herpes simplex virus, but these top five OTC cold sore treatments each help manage cold sores and minimize their effects. 

Abreva®

What Is Abreva® and How Is it Used?

Abreva® is an over-the-counter cream used to treat cold sores and fever blisters. It contains the only non-prescription ingredient approved by the FDA to accelerate the cold sore healing process. Apply Abreva® directly to your cold sore at the first sign of emergence for best results. This OTC treatment can be used up to five times a day, or as directed by your doctor. 

How Does Abreva® Work?

When used at the first sign of that cold sore “tingle”, Abreva® can reduce healing time to between 2.5 and 4.1 days. It works by blocking the herpes virus from entering healthy skin cells and replicating. This means that Abreva® delivers best results when applied in evenly spaced intervals to keep the skin consistently covered. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of Abreva®?

Abreva® is easy to find and use, and it’s unique for containing the only non-prescription ingredient approved by the FDA to limit cold sore outbreaks. However, Abreva® cannot prevent the spread of herpes or stop future outbreaks from occurring. You can find a 0.07 oz package of Abreva® at the drugstore for about $19. 

Orajel™

What Is Orajel™ and How Is it Used?

Orajel™ is a popular over-the-counter medication for instant and targeted pain relief in and around the mouth. For herpes simplex cold sores, the Orajel™ Cold Sore formula includes six active ingredients shown to treat the pain, itching, and dryness caused by cold sores. 

How Does Orajel™ Work?

Orajel™ uses a combination of skin protectants, topical anesthetics, and topical analgesics to temporarily relieve symptoms of cold sores and fever blisters. The product is applied directly to the cold sore and blended well until the green tint disappears. It’s safe to apply Orajel™ up to four times a day to maintain comfort. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of Orajel™?

Orajel™ minimizes the pain and discomfort of cold sores with benzocaine, a local anesthetic that blocks nerve signals in the body. As a result, it increases comfort but doesn’t accelerate the healing process or prevent future cold sore outbreaks. 

Orajel™ must also be used with caution, since too much benzocaine absorbed through the skin and into the blood may cause fatal side effects. This treatment is available over-the-counter for about $14.

ViruLite®

What Is ViruLite® and How Is it Used?

ViruLite® is a cold sore treatment device that uses light technology to shorten the healing time of cold sores. It was first approved in the United Kingdom and Europe and is now available in the United States as well. This FDA-cleared treatment can be used without a prescription to target cold sores from home. 

How Does ViruLite® Work?

ViruLite® uses invisible infrared light therapy to trigger a local immune response around active cold sores. It works best when used three times a day for two days. To use ViruLite®, place the device over your cold sore and hold it in position for a three-minute treatment session. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of ViruLite®?

When used properly, ViruLite® is shown to speed up the healing time of cold sores. It’s convenient and reusable. For persistent cold sore outbreaks, it’s safe to use ViruLite® more frequently. This device costs $99 and is available online. 

Over the counter cold sore treatments compared


Acyclovir

What Is Acyclovir and How Is it Used?

Acyclovir is available in tablet, capsule, or liquid form to decrease the pain and increase the healing time of sores and blisters caused by chickenpox, shingles, genital herpes, and cold sores. This antiviral medication stops the spread of the herpes virus in the body, which in turn helps outbreaks heal. 

How Does Acyclovir Work?

Acyclovir should be taken two to five times a day for five to ten days, depending on the extent of your outbreak. It is most often used for up to 12 months to prevent genital herpes, but your doctor may recommend a shorter dosage to address your cold sore outbreaks. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of Acyclovir?

Acyclovir has the ability to reduce the effects of herpes outbreaks and suppress future outbreaks from occurring, but it also poses a long list of potential side effects. These include upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, joint pain, and hair loss. If you experience any symptoms after taking acyclovir, be sure to call your doctor. 

This treatment is available for as low as $6.25 for 60 tablets, but the price will vary based on dose, quantity, and other factors. 

Lysine

What Is Lysine and How Is it Used?

Unlike other over-the-counter cold sore treatments that use pharmaceutical ingredients, lysine is actually an essential amino acid in the body. It helps the body produce antibodies that fight infections, including the herpes virus. Lysine supplements, also known as L-lysine, are popular natural treatments for cold sores.

How Does Lysine Work?

Lysine is available as both an oral supplement and a cream. A Lysine cream like Quantum Lip Clear Lysine + Cold Sore Treatment can be applied every two hours for 11 days to the affected area. It works to relieve itching, burning, blistering, and pain associated with cold sores. 

If taken as an oral supplement to manage cold sores, lysine can be taken in 1-gram doses three times a day. Some people take a single one-gram dose per day to prevent future outbreaks altogether. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of Lysine?

Lysine is a natural treatment with a limited amount of clinical research to prove its efficacy. Many people prefer lysine as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and ingredients, but more research is needed to officially confirm its benefits. 

Lysine supplements are available in tablet form for about $10 a bottle, or in cream form for about $7.

Luminance Red

What Is Luminance Red and How Is it Used?

Luminance Red is a breakthrough cold sore treatment that harnesses LED technology to shorten healing time and decrease the frequency of new outbreaks. 

This FDA-approved device nourishes the skin with red light, which is metabolized to accelerate the body’s healing process and strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Regular use of Luminance RED not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks, but it can prevent future outbreaks altogether!

How Does Luminance Red Work?

The Luminance Red device is easy to use to reduce the effects of cold sore outbreaks. It is designed to be held about one centimeter from the area being treated for two 60 second sessions. I should be applied at least once a day, but up to three times a day, for maximum efficiency. 

What Are the Pros, Cons, and Price of Luminance Red?

Luminance Red is supported by clinical studies that prove its ability to achieve lasting results. According to clinical research, patients who received Luminance Red treatment averaged 37.5 weeks before their next cold sore episode, compared to 3 weeks for those who did not receive treatment. Patients treated with Luminance Red also experienced a 49% reduction in healing time and a 77% reduction in pain. 

Overall, Luminance Red offers an advanced way to reduce the severity of cold sore outbreaks, accelerate healing, and prevent the frequency of future outbreaks. It’s available online for $399. If you’re not satisfied, Luminance Red offers a 6-month, 100% money-back guarantee.