Dealing With and Preventing a Cold Sore Breakout

Cold sores can be painful and uncomfortable.


They can also be embarrassing.


If you’ve had cold sores in the past, you probably want to know how you can prevent them. If you have a cold sore right now, you probably want to ease your symptoms and get rid of it fast.


Here are our top ways for dealing with and preventing a breakout so you can get back to living your life free of cold sores.


Preventing Cold Sores

Certain things can cause a cold sore breakout. Doing your best to prevent yourself from experiencing these triggers can help reduce your chances of developing a cold sore in the first place.


Tips for preventing a cold sore breakout include:

  • Getting enough sleep to reduce feelings of fatigue

  • Taking medication to prevent allergy symptoms

  • Engaging in stress-reduction techniques, like deep breathing

  • Washing your hands frequently to prevent illness and transferring bacteria to your lips

  • Limiting your exposure to the sun and wind

Even if you take these cold sore prevention measures, you may still experience cold sores. That’s especially the case if you have a weakened immune system or you experience fluctuations in your hormones.



Managing a Cold Sore Breakout at Home

If you do experience a cold sore breakout, there are things you can do at home to ease symptoms:

  • Place ice on the cold sore to reduce feelings of burning and itching

  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the pain

  • Avoid acidic foods, like citrus fruits, and spicy foods that can break cold sores open

  • Place a cold wet towel on the sore a few times a day to minimize redness and irritation

  • Apply petroleum jelly to the sores to prevent them from getting cracked

These tips can ease your symptoms and ensure you don’t exacerbate your cold sores, but they won’t necessarily help them go away any quicker. If you want to shorten the length of your outbreak, you may want to consider medication.


Reducing the Time You Have a Cold Sore With Medication

Antiviral medicines can reduce the time you have a cold sore, but only if you apply it as soon as you notice the first signs of an outbreak. Over the counter medications that contain docosanol or benzyl alcohol can be applied as soon as you notice a tingling, burning, or itching feeling on the site where you know a cold sore will develop within the next 12 to 24 hours.


You can also use prescription medications. Some medications are meant to be applied to existing cold sores, but you can also receive a drug, like acyclovir, that can be taken daily to prevent cold sores from developing in the first place.


If you’re interested in prescription medications to manage your cold sore breakouts, initiate a telehealth appointment. A licensed medical professional will go over your health history and your symptoms to determine the best course of action for treatment and prevention. It may include prescription pills or topical ointments that you can use to hasten current symptoms and prevent future cold sores from developing.