rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


You know the signs, that tell-tale little tingling sensation that signals you’re in for a real treat, a cold sore is on the way. Zovirax can be a good first line of defence and is very successful at keeping cold sores at bay, but it needs to be applied at the tingling stage. Not so useful if they appear in the morning as most of mine do. When you wake at night to that itching niggling feeling do you always leap out of bed and hunt for the cold sore cream? No, you don’t, you roll over and go back to sleep and pray for a miracle.

When you wake up the next day with the beginnings of one of these little lovelies you know it’s time to take action. Once a cold sore has erupted and begun its blistery miserable life it’s no fun at all and they can be really painful, but there are lots of things you can do to shorten it’s life span, and to prevent them coming back.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and once contracted can lay dormant in nerve cells for years. Triggers include being run down, getting stressed, menstrual cycle, exposure to direct sunlight and even certain foods. There is no cure for cold sores. If you’ve had one, chances are you’ll get them again, but there are loads of natural remedies and actions you can take to minimise attacks.

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts for surviving, minimising and banishing those cold sores for good!


  • Keep it clean – Make sure you keep the cold sore and area around it clean by washing with warm soapy water but be very gentle. Perhaps even use cotton wool, and pat dry very carefully. It can be very easy to whip the scab off which will prolong healing.
  • Eat food that’s rich in Lysine e.g. Dairy products, potatoes, legumes (peas, lentils, beans) meat (specifically red meat, pork, and poultry), cheese (particularly parmesan), certain fish (such as cod and sardines), nuts, eggs, soyabeans (particularly tofu, isolated soy protein, and defatted soyabean flour), spirulina, and fenugreek seed and brewer’s yeast all contain lysine.
  • Take L-Lysine supplements – This amino acid supplement hinders the growth of the virus so can really aid healing and stop spreading.
  • Use a separate towel and face cloth – For the simple reason that cold sores spread so easily, if you or anyone else in the family has a cold sore, make sure everyone else knows not to use their towel to prevent contamination.
  • Use an anaesthetic ointment to numb – It will help to alleviate the pain if you have a particularly bad bout
  • Take painkillers – They will just take the edge off the pain of your cold sore.
  • Get lots of rest – One of the key triggers is being run down so make sure you get good and regular sleep. Cold sores don’t like that!
  • Take vitamin supplements – Vitamin supplements such as zinc, vitamin E, B to help heal your skin.
  • Boost your immune system – Take Echinacea or other immune boosting supplements to help knock cold sore attacks on the head
  • Keep it moisturised – Simple vaseline or petroleum jelly will do the trick, but there are loads of cold sore and chapped lip creams. Keeping your cold sore moisturised will aid healing, but make sure you always wash your hands after application
  • Get plenty of exercise – Exercise bolsters the immune system so don’t hide away. Get out there and get some fresh air; it’s a really effective way to fight off stress.
  • Try a cold pack – Ice can help dull the pain so try a cold pack or compress to numb the discomfort.
  • Learn to combat and cope with stress – Try yoga, pilates or meditation as great stress busters to keep you on an even keel.
  • Protect your lips – Make sure you wear a good sun-screen lip balm in direct sunlight as this can trigger cold sores.


  • Eat foods rich in Arginine e.g. Chocolate, Cola, beer and peanuts
  • Eat salty acidic food – Crisps, lemon and similar foods will aggravate your cold sore.
  • Kiss or perform oral sex – Cold sores are extremely easy to spread and pass on through physical contact so don’t feel tempted.
  • Touch, scratch or pick it – Physical contact with these little blighters can encourage them to spread very easily so when you do treat it, wash your hands and then avoid contact.
  • Get it wet! – Cold sore scabs can be very fragile, so avoid licking it or getting it wet if you can. Don’t go swimming and try to keep it out of the water when you shower. Wash the cold sore gently in warm soapy water.
  • Let it get you down – Cold sores can be really painful and miserable, so take it easy and be kind to yourself. Ignore them and pretend they aren’t there!
  • Wear make-up Avoid using lipstick as you could contaminate it with the virus.
  • Keep your toothbrush in the bathroom – Moisture prolongs the life of the cold sore virus to make sure you dry it out, keep it in the bedroom instead so any virus cells won’t survive and spread back onto your lips before it’s fully healed.

It’s good to see a few more Do’s than Don’ts here, and as if that’s not enough for you to be going on with, here are some other natural remedies that I’ve gleaned from friends, family and fellow cold sore sufferers.

  • Zovirax – Available in most chemists this is the first line of defence when you feel tingling. It contains aciclovir which helps prevent the cold sore taking hold. Boots, Lloyds and other pharmacies often do their own brand which is much cheaper than Zovirax. Careful when you open these little tubes as you can end up with the half the contents spewing out when you only want a tiny bit.
  • Toothpaste – Dab some directly onto the cold sore. It dries them out!
  • Witch Hazel – Using cotton wool dab some onto the cold sore. Witch Hazel has natural healing qualities.
  • Corsodyl gel – Also available at the chemists. Not tried this one out yet.
  • Whisky – I didn’t discover whether this remedy involved application to the cold sore or drinking, or perhaps both. I’ll leave that up to you…
  • Colloidal Silver – Can also be dabbed onto the cold sore to aid healing. You can get this in most health food shops in liquid form and you can keep it in the fridge.
  • Eue de toillete – The alcohol dries up the cold sore but also stings!
  • Licorice – Make sure it’s real licorice and not flavoured.
  • Milk – Soak cotton wool in milk and dab onto the cold sore

Cold sores can also be triggered by food allergies so if you do keep getting recurrent cold sores start a food and symptoms diary and try to pin point what foods are causing it.

What are your cold sore remedies? What works for you to banish these little horrors? I usually give mine a name like Colin or Clary – bring in a bit of humour. Let em know I’m not bovvered. It usually does the trick!



An allergy and health writer and freelance copywriter, Ruth is passionate about helping those with allergies and food intolerances take control, embrace their condition, and learn to live with and love who they are. It can be very lonely finding you have allergies and discovering what helps you can be a life long journey. What works for one person won't work for another, so after trying nearly every allergy treatment under the sun and finding hours of research necessary to keep abreast of what's going on, Ruth started writing her blog, What Allergy? in April 2009. Ruth has life threatening allergies herself to all nuts, all diary, tomatoes and celery and knows first-hand what it's like to have an anaphylactic attack. Voted in the Top 5 UK allergy blogs by Cision UK in 2011, What Allergy is packed full of interesting articles, hints and tips and product reviews which are a must read for anyone with allergies, food intolerances or sensitivities, asthma and eczema. From subjects such as "What is celery allergy?" to "Surviving a holiday abroad with allergies", it's packed with useful and interesting information. You can register free for a weekly newsletter by visiting her website and also keep in touch by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

9 Responses to Do’s and Don’ts of fighting cold sores

  1. Sam

    Hello Ruth

    WOW! This blog article is a real eye opener for me. I suffer with really bad cold sores and until now I’ve believed there’s no rhyme or reason for them. But your blog has made me think twice!

    I had never thought that it could be due to an allergy. I treat them with the usual over the counter stuff which is always pretty useless. I did have a course of tablets from the doctor once which did speed up the healing process, but my cold sore was still painful and unsightly! My doctor never suggested it might be an allergy. In fact, she didnt’ even give me any do’s and don’ts!!

    I get cold sores in the summer and in the winter. When I’m stressed and when I’m not stressed. Always on the same place on my lip and they vary in severity. Sometimes I can nip them in the bud and they’re barely visible and other times they erupt all over my lip inside and out! The worst thing is you feel like everyone is staring and it. Sometimes I find myself apologising for my cold sore before anyone has even noticed as I’m so self conscious.

    I’m going to print off your do’s and don’ts for the next time my cold sore comes to haunt me. I’ll also keep a diary and report back. And, I think I’ll also give my cold sore a name …. I’ll let you know what that is next time I get one!

    Sam x

    • Hi Sam, I’m so glad you found it useful, and no, sadly cold sores aren’t really important to doctors. When you have one you just feel miserable though as they’re so painful. I once got one so bad (caused by the sun on a skiing holiday) that it was so huge I had to wear a scarf round my face to hide it. Awful memories. Clarissa is trying to take hold at the moment (hence the cold sore blog) but she’s not winning – Yay! Did I speak too soon? Stress can come in many different guises. I can get coldsores when I’m stressed in a good and bad way, and becuase this horrid little virus is just waiting for that moment so it can spring back into life you’ve just got to keep healthy, boost your immune system and learn to recognise your triggers and early warnings and get an early night!

  2. Hi
    Coldsores suck! I hate them so much and I suffer from them terribly.
    I have discovered that a natural salve that my company produces for bites and stings is the best thing I have ever coming across for speeding up the coldsore process.
    When I get the tingling feeling I use Purepotions Teatree Rescue Salve every 10 to 20 minutes and more often than not the coldsore never actually appears!!! It is amazing and such a relief to know that when I get the tingling there is something I can use that stands a chance of working.
    Recently I went away for a weekend and forgot to pack the Teatree Salve, I came back with no less than 15 coldsores all over my lips…just goes to show how good it is that this is what happens when I don’t use it.
    I now have about 4 pots on the go so I never get caught short and it has stopped several attacks happening since.
    Also, if a coldsore does appear, the Teatree Salve seems to speed up the process of the blister going, taking only a few days rather than weeks.
    I highly recommend it. I know I am talking about a salve that my own company produces but this is not a sales pitch it is a genuine discovery that has brought me huge relief and I just wanted to share it.
    Wishing you all a coldsore free winter…
    Weze x

    • Hi Weze. Thanks so much for the comment and the suggestion. Tea Tree would work really well I think so I’m definitely going to try this. Where can I get some? I also love the fact that it’s a natural remedy rather than some horrid white stuff in a tube that spews out too much each time you need to apply.

  3. Charlotte

    I hate these little blighters. Nat. Mur a homeopathic rememdy has had amazing results for me. Combined with the L Lysine you mention. My little one has hand foot and mouth at the moment which is often how the first instance of coldsores appears. Feeling very guilty that I have more than likely passed it on to him. ;o(

  4. Ruth – remembered you put this on the blog and have read it as I’ve got a cold sore – get them in the winter, summer, stressed, not stressed – in fact any time! In fact no real rhyme or reason! I’m using the Zovirax as usual but will be trying some of your other suggestions too!

  5. I have fought cold sores with no real relief for probably 16 years. The only time it wasn’t an issue was when I was on Acylovir for an entire year, and could not miss one day. When I went off the medication I started having almost back to back cold sores 2-3 a month. I used the Acylovir cream and every other remedy I could find and nothing worked. You know how ugly and painful these things are and it was so much worse around my period time. By change I found an article that promoted the virus as a fungus and enouraged Lamisil for up to 9 months to “cure ” the problem. I am a nurse and way to aware of the liver issues to think I would talk my doctor into this. However, I started thinking if there was any truth in this, would oral topical medication for fungus work? Then I found a patent someone had taken out for clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) 1% for the treatment of herpes. So I bought a tube. I started using it 4 weeks ago. I have had the signs of a cold sore starting for the past week but it has never broken out. Normally i get a 2-3 hour notice before I have full break out. I have always gotten very large nasty cold sores. I think there is something in this medication that inhibits the virus big time. I am so anxious to see what happens over the next month, but I believe i am on to something. Would make sense that this would be surpressed, there is a lot of money in cold sore medications that don’t really work, but are better than nothing. And this med is cheap. I have just spread a thin layer around my mouth, particularly where breakouts happen twice a day. You know what? You go nothing to lose to try it. I have even seen postings against using this… with the explaination “this is a virus, not a fungus. ” I know it is a virus. I know this medication is working.

  6. Tammy

    I just wanted to add that I recently started using Lotrimin to treat my cold sores as well. I am fully aware that it is a virus and while it was too late to prevent the break-out, it has helped keep it somewhat under control and helps dry the blisters. I am so far a believer of Lotrimin for cold sores.

  7. sarah smith

    Every 6 months I get a coldsore same place right side of my top lip the lip swells into a huge bump followed by right sided gland swelling and the gland under my chin swells to the size of a large marball. It’s so painfull my whole face and neck hurts. The GP says this is quite normal? However i can never get into them when its at its worst. I miss time off work with the pain. I use aclivir 800s 5x daily but wish I could find a better solution.

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