Combating Cold Sores

Cold sores are small fluid-filled blisters that appear on the skin and usually present on the lips, chin, cheeks, or in the nostrils. Some people may have no symptoms whereas others may develop a painful and unsightly cold sores that last for a week or more.

These are due to infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are 2 strains of HSV:

- HSV-1 (Herpes simplex virus type 1) usually cause facial cold sores, but can also cause genital herpes.

- HSV-2 (Herpes simplex virus type 2) are the most common causes of genital herpes.

Approximately 80% of people carry HSV-1 and 25% carry HSV-2 by the time they are adults, but only 20% will experience symptoms. These may include tingling, burning or itchiness in the area of skin. Blisters then develop and may burst. Crusty scabs form and then crack open. Luckily, healing takes place without leaving a scar usually within a week or two.

Just remember if these symptoms appear, it is manageable and easily treatable at the pharmacy.


Antiviral creams

These generally need to be applied as soon as possible once your symptoms start to be most effective. Some creams like aciclovir (Zovirax) need to be applied five times daily, about once every four hours. If you have a painful sore, some creams have a combination of ingredients which have antiviral, antibacterial and anaesthetic (Virasolve) to give additional relief.

Tips: Don't re-use the same finger for applying more cream as this can contaminate the container/tube! Find disposable ways of applying lipbalms/lipsticks and avoid sharing utensils and cups with others during this time.

Cold sore patches

These special dressings (Compeed) can be very effective if used early when the tingling occurs. It protects the cold sore and seals it, providing a barrier to prevent spread and reduce the chance of developing a scab.

Oral antiviral medication

Antiviral tablets are for people who suffer severe symptoms occasionally and develop painful sores. There are a few ingredients your doctor can prescribe, however, pharmacists can provide a one dose treatment called famciclovir (Famciclovir Once) for those it is suitable for. Taking this treatment early can prevent the cold sore from progressing to advanced stages.

Pain relief

Common pain relievers, eg. paracetamol, may be taken to help reduce the pain of cold sores.

Lip balms

Moisturise and protect the sore with lip balm or cream (we highly recommend those with SPF30+ protection!). These help with the healing process by promoting moist-wound healing.


Lysine supplements may help to slow down or prevent the growth of the herpes simplex virus type 1. HSV-1 requires arginine, which is another amino acid, to grow. Lysine helps prevent the body from absorbing arginine, making it difficult for HSV-1 to grow and reproduce.


If you have a cold sore and are pregnant or are intending to become pregnant, you'll need to speak to the pharmacist.

We can go through some of the common triggers and help you avoid them. These include:

- stress

- fatigue

- extreme temperatures / sunlight and UV radiation

- hormonal changes / pregnancy / menstruation

- low immunity / immunosuppressant drugs

Come in store and see me and I'll show you which option is best for you.

Pharmacist Jenna

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