Cold Sore Treatments: How to Know the Best Antiviral Medication


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The herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is highly contagious, is what causes cold sores, or what is also referred to as fever blisters. They are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear on or around the lips and can be very painful. 

Fortunately, there are several antiviral medications available to treat cold sores. This article will discuss how to know the best antiviral medication for treating cold sores.

Understanding Cold Sores

HSV comes in two varieties: type 1 and type 2. While type 2 is often linked to genital herpes, type 1 is the most frequent source of cold sores. Close contact with someone with an active outbreak of cold sores can spread the infection, which is very contagious.

Symptoms of Cold Sores

The symptoms of cold sores typically include:

  • Small, fluid-filled blisters on or around the lips
  • Pain or tingling in the affected area
  • Swelling and redness
  • Itching or burning

Cold sores usually last 7-10 days but can be painful and uncomfortable. In some cases, they can also cause scarring or discoloration of the skin.

Treatment for Cold Sores

There are several antiviral cold sore medications available. These medications can help to reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak, as well as prevent future outbreaks from occurring.

Antiviral Medications for Cold Sores

The most commonly prescribed antiviral medications for cold sores are acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications function by halting the spread of the virus, which can lessen the intensity and duration of an outbreak.


Acyclovir is an antiviral medication available in several forms, including oral tablets, topical creams, and ointments. It is frequently used to treat viral illnesses like chickenpox, shingles, and cold sores.

Oral acyclovir is typically prescribed for severe outbreaks of cold sores. It is most effective within the first 48 hours of an outbreak. Topical acyclovir creams and ointments can also treat cold sores but are less effective than oral medications.


Valacyclovir is used to treat HSV infections, which can cause symptoms such as sores, blisters, and pain around the mouth and genitals. Valacyclovir can also treat VZV infections, which can cause symptoms such as a rash, itching, and pain. Valacyclovir can help reduce the severity and duration of these symptoms.

Valacyclovir is available as a tablet or an oral suspension. It is usually taken twice daily for five to ten days, depending on the type and severity of the infection. Valacyclovir may also be prescribed as suppressive therapy, which is taken long-term to prevent recurrent outbreaks.


Famciclovir is available as a tablet, an oral suspension, and a topical cream. It is usually taken twice or thrice daily for five to 10 days. The dose and length of treatment depend on the type of infection being treated. 

For example, the dose and duration of treatment for genital herpes is 500 mg twice daily for seven days. For shingles, the recommended dose is 500 mg three times daily for seven days.

Which Antiviral Medication Is Best?

The best antiviral medication for treating cold sores depends on several factors, including the outbreak’s severity, the frequency of outbreaks, and the individual’s medical history. In general, valacyclovir and famciclovir are more effective than acyclovir at preventing future outbreaks and reducing the duration of an outbreak.

It is important to note that antiviral medications are most effective when they are taken as soon as possible after an outbreak begins. This is why it is essential to talk to your doctor about starting antiviral medications as soon as you notice the symptoms of a cold sore.

Other Treatments for Cold Sores

In addition to antiviral medications, several other treatments can help to reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak of cold sores. These include:

  • Painkillers sold without a prescription, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Topical creams or ointments, such as docosanol or lidocaine
  • Ice packs or cold compresses to lessen discomfort and swelling

Preventing Cold Sores

While there is no cure for cold sores, there are several things that you can do to prevent them from occurring. These include:

  • Refraining from close contact with those who are experiencing cold sore outbreaks.
  • Avoid using towels, cutlery, or other personal objects on somebody with a cold sore outbreak.
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system with a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and stress management


After reviewing the available treatments for cold sores, it is evident that the best course of action is to take an antiviral medication as soon as possible when the first signs of a cold sore appear. It is essential to consult a healthcare provider and a pharmacy to determine the best antiviral medication for cold sores. By doing so, individuals can prevent the cold sore from spreading and reduce the risk of complications.

Looking for a reliable and knowledgeable neighbourhood pharmacy that can meet all your health and well-being needs? Look no further than Fergus Pharmacy! Our team is committed to providing you with the best care possible in the comfort of your town. Whether you’re looking for advice on medications or supplements or just need a friendly ear to listen, we’re here for you. Get a prescription for a cold sore medication from us now.