Cold Sore Causes & Treatments

Cold Sore Treatment

shutterstock_101105884-e1572398983277-492x630 Cold Sore Causes & Treatments Houston DermatologistA cold sore refers to a small blister or group of blisters that typically develop on the lip or around the mouth. Cold sores occur due to the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Cold sores occur quite commonly, and over 50 percent of Americans aged 14 to 49 years carry the virus that causes these sores. After the cold sores clear, the virus remains in the body. In case the virus reactivates or wakes up, the cold sores may recur.

Not Serious but Contagious

In general, cold sores are not a serious dermatology condition, and will tend to clear within two weeks in healthy people. However, a person with a cold sore can spread the virus to others who do not have the virus. Despite the cold sores receiving treatment, the virus can still spread to others. A patient remains contagious until all the sores have scabbed over.

A person can avoid infecting others by taking the following precautions until all of the sores scab over:

  • Do not kiss people, particularly children
  • Avoid other forms of intimate contact
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with a weakened immune system, including newborn infants
  • Do not share personal in items such as towels, lip balm, or razors
  • Do not share food or drinks
  • Wash the hands immediately after touching a cold sore or applying medicine to it
  • Wash the hands often during the day

These precautions are particularly crucial if the patient is around a child who has eczema or an individual with a weakened immune system. It can be quite serious if that person catches the virus.

How do dermatologists treat cold sores?

A dermatologist may prescribe the following to treat cold sores:

Antiviral Drugs

Cold sores occur due to a virus, so antiviral medicines are used to treat them. The dermatologist may prescribe drugs that the patient may need to:

  • Apply directly to the sores, such as acyclovir cream or docosanol cream
  • Take by mouth such as valacyclovir, famciclovir, or acyclovir

For a person who has a serious outbreak and cannot experience relief from the above, a dermatologist may prescribe an antiviral drug that they can receive intravenously, such as cidofovir or foscarnet. They will need to be monitored closely if one of these drugs is necessary.

If a person gets cold sores frequently and has a weak immune system, the dermatologist may prescribe a prescription cream named penciclovir. This medication can reduce the time that a person has cold sores. The patient will need to apply it to the skin as soon the initial symptoms of a cold sore, such as tingling or burning, for it to work.

Pain Medication

In case a person has a significant amount of pain, the dermatologist may prescribe a drug that they may apply to the sores, such as lidocaine.


It is vital to protect the sores from the sun as they heal. A lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher and broad-spectrum protection can offer the lips protection. If worn year-round, this lip balm may be able to prevent the development of new cold sores.

There are benefits to treating cold sores. It can reduce the duration of the outbreak. It may even prevent a person from getting a cold sore if they start treatment at the first sign of a cold sore.

For More Information contact our Board Certified in Dermatologists at Texas Surgical Dermatology in Spring, TX

For more information on procedures and treatments offered at Texas Surgical Dermatology PA please call 832.663.6566 or click here to contact our dermatologists. Helping patients in Houston, The Woodlands, Spring, Katy and other surrounding areas of Texas.

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