Got Cold Sores? These Are the 3 Fastest Treatments + Prevention Tips

7 minute read

Cold sores are generally harmless but unsightly, and they always seem to pop up at the most inconvenient time. Not only do they have bad timing, but they also like to hang around for too long, wearing out their welcome.

Caused by the herpes simplex virus, cold sores are easy to treat if you know the right secrets, and you can prevent them from hanging out for too long.

Treating Cold Sores Quickly

Cold sores are highly contagious as well as unsightly, so people want to get rid of them as fast as possible. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is closely related to the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. Both can be easily transmitted through oral sex, but cold sores can be passed along just by kissing.

The irritation, as well as the infectious nature of cold sores, makes it important to treat right away. You can shorten the lifespan of a cold sore and prevent its spreading by washing your hands often, with soapy water. This is especially important to do before and after you apply an ointment to an open sore.

You can still spread the virus to another person, but this will protect you from spreading it to other parts of your body, such as your eyes. Avoid direct contact with another person until the cold sore has healed and disappeared.

1. Zinc-Based Cream

Zinc-oxide is commonly used for the treatment of rashes, skin irritations, and burns. The same qualities that make zinc oxide helpful against these conditions also make it helpful in treating cold sores. When treated with zinc oxide, individuals with cold sores reported reduced healing time.

The zinc needs to be applied within 24 hours of the cold sore appearing to be effective. When you notice a cold sore developing, grab a lip ointment that contains zinc oxide. There are several on the market, and all will work to reduce healing time and severity.

2. Essential Oils

Some common essential oils have been shown to reduce the healing time of cold sores. The most popular ones are peppermint and lemon balm, although any oil from the mint family will be helpful. Studies found that using these essential oils as soon as the cold sore appears speeds up healing time and reduces overall irritation.

Peppermint essential oil is the ultimate oil to use, as research found that up to 90 percent of the herpes simplex virus was killed off within hours of being exposed to this powerful oil. It’s important to note that the direct application of essential oils can burn, so be sure to dilute first.

3. L-lysine

This is an amino acid that has been found to be a killer of viruses, including the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores. The herpes virus, in particular, requires the amino acid arginine to grow, and L-lysine blocks this activity. An L-lysine supplement three times a day will help speed up healing of a cold sore, or you can opt for eating L-lysine-rich foods such as organic poultry and wild-caught fish.

L-lysine can also be found in many lip ointments and treatments. Better yet, an immune system supplement that contains both L-lysine and zinc will not only boost immunity, but it will also help reduce your healing time. 

How to Prevent Cold Sores

Stress is known for weakening the immune system, which gives the herpes simplex virus the green light. Reducing stress and inflammation can reduce your risk of getting cold sores in the first place. Something as simple as a bad night of sleep can trigger inflammation, which will stimulate the development of a cold sore.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to reduce stress and inflammation.

Get Sleep

Making sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night protects your body from inflammation. Restful sleep also means you are recharged for the next day. Being tired and unfocused can cause you to stress during the day, which will trigger inflammation and increase your risk for the appearance of a cold sore.


Regular physical activity is the best way to keep your body fit and healthy, which reduces inflammation. Exercise is also a great way to release any tension or stress from the day.

When regular exercise is a part of your routine, you’re physically and mentally better able to manage stress. As a result, your immune system is stronger, and the likelihood of a cold sores developing is reduced.


Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga help to calm the body and mind. When done regularly, you feel more relaxed, and stress doesn’t have the same impact on your body. Less stress means less inflammation, which means cold sores are less likely to appear.

These methods of relaxation also promote overall health by strengthening the immune system, so you stand a good chance of not getting that cold sore in the first place.

Eat Right

Inflammation that causes internal stress to your body, and weakens your immunity, can be triggered by what you eat. While it’s not the same stress caused by external factors, the result is the same.

Avoid foods that are known to trigger inflammation, such as alcohol, spicy foods, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sugars, and unhealthy fats. Instead, fill your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, protein, and fiber. This will keep you healthy, keep your immune system strong, and keep cold sores hidden away.

| Related: 11 Easy, Natural At-Home Remedies to Fight & Prevent Flu Season |

The Bottom Line

There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus, but you can control the development and healing of any cold sore that decides to show up. Reducing stress is the best way to prevent systemic inflammation and a cold sore, but one may still show up unexpectedly.

With the three treatment options above, you now have fast ways to get rid of this unwanted guest so you can get back to living irritation and cold sore free.

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