General Health

How to Stop a Cold Sore in its Tracks, the Best Remedies and What Doesn’t Work

Take it from me – I’ve had cold sores my entire life. Yes – you read that right. My Dad kissed me when I was 6 months old and hey presto.

I’m now the proud carrier of the Herpes Simplex 1 virus forevermore.

I absolutely HATE cold sores and I get them more frequently than anyone I know. But what has having a lifetime of cold sores taught me? How to treat them, how to avoid them and how to ensure my loved ones never catch them. Let me share what I’ve learned over the years in case you find yourself with a nasty blister on your lips.

What is a cold sore?

If you’re not quite sure what a cold sore is, it is a blister that breaks around your lip/mouth region but these contagious little buggers can actually spread to your nose, chin and eyes. The virus that causes cold sores is called Herpes Simplex 1 – not to be confused with genital herpes, that’s a different strain of the virus, but here’s where it gets complex… someone with Herpes Simplex 1 (mouth cold sores) can spread them to themselves or someone else’s genital region resulting in Herpes Simplex 2.

Cold sores are extremely contagious, especially in the beginning phases of the cycle.

What is a cold sore cycle?

The cold sore cycle starts with an itch or a burning feeling. Usually because it’s concentrated in a spot where you’ve had a cold sore before it’s pretty obvious that you’re about to get a cold sore. After a day or so of the tingling stage a blister will break. This looks like a small red lump or a cluster of blisters. It cam sometimes be quite painful or may even still itch a little. After a few more days, the sore will break and begin to crust over like a scab. It is the final stage before the scab falls off and the new skin is in the healing process. Even after this stage I still give it a few days before planting a kiss on my loved ones.

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores can be spurred on for many different reasons but the most typical are if you’re tired, run down, stressed or anxious or if you have had exposure to extreme elements like wind or sunburn on your lips. The first step to preventing them is to try and avoid all of these things – but being a busy mum this can be easier said than done.

How do you treat a cold sore?

Treatment varies but here are some tried and tested classics that keep them at bay and help them to heal faster than if you just leave them to progress through the natural cycle.

  • When you feel the tingling burn, take two Llysine vitamins and get ice on that itch pronto!
  • If it’s too late and the sore has broken, continue taking 2 Llysine tablets and use a cold sore cream like Zovirax to help it heal faster.
  • If you have a small child or a baby who often flaps their little hands around your face, invest in some Compeed patches. They are clear patches that have active ingredients to help heal the cold sore, but they also act as a protective barrier so bub can’t touch your sore then rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouth.
  • After an outbreak, continue taking 1 Llysine tablet as the virus can still be active in your system meaning you get a recurring outbreak a week or two after the one you’ve just had.

Old Wives’ Tales About Cold Sores

Here are some treatments I wouldn’t recommend trying if you find yourself with a cold sore. I’ve tried them all and not only did they fail to work… but they also hurt like a mofo!

  • Spray perfume on your cold sore – don’t do it! This really stung and turned me off Georgie on Ice for life.
  • Put vegemite on your cold sore – this is literally rubbing salt into a wound. Wouldn’t recommend it and it does nothing to treat the virus itself.
  • Rub alcohol on it – this might dry the blister out if it’s weeping but again… there are less painful methods that are proven to work better

Click here to read about the dangers of cold sores and babies. It could literally save their life!

Avatar of Amanda Nicholls

Amanda is a mum of two beautiful girls who comes from the Blue Mountains. Previously a magazine editor and a published children's book author, Amanda loves writing and sharing her parenting tips with other mums (and dads!).


  1. Avatar of Amy N

    I tried a new antiviral drug prescribed by my family physician called sitavig. A single tablet that dissolves in your gum line. I went a little over a year without getting a cold sore.

  2. Avatar of Angela

    Can I also suggest talking to your pharmacist? There are oral anti-viral over the counter medicines that can treat the cold sore if you get it early.

  3. Avatar of Sue

    Funny enough when I’m at home and can smother on the Vegemite it works a treat to stop mine in their tracks – otherwise mine keep growing and the cream doesn’t work for me.

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