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How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Overnight

Medically reviewed by Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD ND
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How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Overnight February 26, 2019

Cold sores can be quite a painful affair. They are unsightly to look at and can be highly embarrassing. Hence, you’d want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Most cold sores go away on their own in two to four weeks. But, if you want to shorten this duration, relieve the symptoms, and reduce the chances of recurrence, we’ve got you covered. We have compiled a list of amazing home remedies and tips that can help you deal with cold sores.

Table Of Contents

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are also referred to as fever blisters. They are tiny, fluid-filled blisters and usually occur in patches on or around your lips. Once these blisters burst, a crust forms over them.

Cold sores can be transmitted from one person to another by close contact like kissing. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) that is closely related to the one that causes genital herpes (HSV-2). Both these viruses can be easily spread by oral sex. Cold sores are contagious, irrespective of whether they are visible or not.

Although cold sores can heal on their own, they may take up to four weeks to go away completely. Hence, to assist in faster recovery, here are some wonderful home remedies that may help.

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How To Treat Cold Sores Naturally

  1. Tea Tree Oil
  2. Ice Cube
  3. Coconut Oil
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar
  5. Peppermint Oil
  6. Hydrogen Peroxide
  7. Garlic
  8. Witch Hazel
  9. Lemon Balm Oil
  10. Vanilla
  11. Sea Salt
  12. Honey
  13. Echinacea
  14. Licorice Root
  15. Eucalyptus Oil
  16. Milk
  17. Toothbrush Hygiene
  18. Vitamin E
  19. Aloe Vera Gel

Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Tea tree oil
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do

Dab some tea tree oil on the cotton swab and apply it directly to the sore.

How Often You Need To Do This

Repeat this several times during the day and before you go to sleep.

Why This Works

Tea tree oil possesses strong antiviral properties that kill the infection-causing virus and speeds up the healing process (1).

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2. Ice Cube

You Will Need

An ice cube

What You Have To Do

Hold the ice cube on the cold sore to reduce the swelling and itching. Avoid scratching it.

How Often You Need To Do This

Repeat this several times in a day.

Why This Works

Ice can reduce the swelling and may help the cold sores heal faster (2).

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3. Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Coconut oil
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do
  1. If you feel a cold sore developing, apply coconut oil directly on it with a cotton swab.
  2. Leave it on.
How Often You Need To Do This

You can repeat the application every hour.

Why This Works

Coconut oil is a good antimicrobial agent (3). It contains triglycerides, like lauric acid and oleic acid, that can kill the virus and eliminate the cold sore quickly.

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4. Apple Cider Vinegar

You Will Need
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Apply ACV on the cold sore with the cotton swab.
  2. Leave it on until it dries.
How Often You Need To Do This

You may repeat this thrice a day.

Why This Works

ACV is an excellent antimicrobial agent (4). It kills the virus causing the infection and offers quick relief from the cold sore.

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5. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cotton ball
What You Have To Do
  1. Dab some peppermint oil on a cotton ball and apply it directly to the cold sore.
  2. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off with water.
How Often You Need To Do This

You can do this thrice a day.

Why This Works

Peppermint oil exerts high levels of virucidal activity against herpes simplex virus (5). One study concluded that peppermint oil might be suitable for topical use in cases of recurrent herpes infection. Regular application of this oil is one of the best ways to get rid of cold sores.

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6. Hydrogen Peroxide

You Will Need
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cotton
What You Have To Do

Dab hydrogen peroxide on a piece of cotton and apply it to the sore.

How Often You Need To Do This

Reapply every two to three hours.

Why This Works

Hydrogen peroxide can help in the inactivation of various virus strains (6). It can stop bleeding, dry the sore out, and shrink the sore to a minimally visible mark.

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7. Garlic

Garlic Pinit

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You Will Need

A small garlic clove

What You Have To Do
  1. Take the garlic clove, crush it, and apply it directly to the lesion.
  2. You can also consume raw garlic on an empty stomach, early in the morning, for best results.
How Often You Need To Do This

Apply this twice or thrice a day.

Why This Works

Garlic extracts and compounds were shown to have a virucidal effect on herpes simplex virus type 1 (7). This is a simple home remedy to take care of the cold sore without having to shell out a lot of money.

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8. Witch Hazel

You Will Need
  • Witch hazel
  • Cotton ball
What You Have To Do
  1. Using a clean cotton ball, apply the witch hazel solution to the cold sore.
  2. Allow it to dry.
How Often You Need To Do This

Apply this once or twice a day.

Why This Works

Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent properties (8). Hence, it can assist in healing cold sores and also reduce the swelling and pain.

Caution

Witch hazel can irritate sensitive skin, so do a patch test near your elbow before you use this remedy.

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9. Lemon Balm Oil

Lemon Balm Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Lemon balm oil
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do
  1. Apply the oil directly to the cold sore with the cotton swab.
  2. Allow it to dry on its own.
  3. If you want, you can rinse it off your skin 15-20 minutes after application.
How Often You Need To Do This

Apply the oil thrice a day.

Why This Works

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) oil heals wounds and has antiviral properties. It can eliminate the infection-causing virus and heal the sore quickly (9).

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10. Vanilla

You Will Need
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do
  1. If you feel the tingle that marks the onset of the sore, soak a cotton swab in vanilla extract and apply it to the sore.
  2. Hold it for a few minutes and then remove.
How Often You Need To Do This

Apply this extract four to five times a day for best results and quick healing.

Why This Works

Vanilla is one of the best-known home remedies for cold sore treatment. Pure vanilla extract contains 35% alcohol, which makes it difficult for the microbes to grow and thrive (10).

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11. Sea Salt

Sea Salt Pinit

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You Will Need

A pinch of sea salt

What You Have To Do
  1. Using a clean finger, apply sea salt directly on the cold sore.
  2. Hold it in place for 30 seconds.
How Often You Need To Do This

Repeat this twice or thrice a day.

Why This Works

Salt has antimicrobial and virus inactivation properties that may help treat the cold sores (11).

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12. Honey

You Will Need

1/2 teaspoon of honey

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply honey on the cold sore with your fingertip.
  2. Leave it on for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Rinse with water.
How Often You Need To Do This

Do this twice a day.

Why This Works

Honey has antimicrobial properties (12). It can not only heal the infected sore but also soothe the inflamed and irritated skin. The topical application of honey is the quickest way to get rid of a cold sore.

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13. Echinacea

Echinacea Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 echinacea tea bag
  • A cup of boiling water
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep the tea bag in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  2. Drink this tea while it is warm.
How Often You Need To Do This

Drink two to three cups of this herbal tea in a day.

Why This Works

Echinacea strengthens the body’s immune system and helps it fight the viral infection (13).

Caution

Discontinue drinking the tea or taking the capsules once the cold sore has healed.

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14. Licorice Root

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon licorice root powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons petroleum jelly
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix the licorice root powder in the jelly to form a gooey paste.
  2. Apply this on the cold sore and let it dry.
How Often You Need To Do This

Reapply every few hours.

Why This Works

Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, which can inhibit the growth and replication of the virus (14). Together with the petroleum jelly, it can speed up the healing process of the cold sore.

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15. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do

1. Apply the oil to the cold sore with a clean cotton swab.
2. Leave it on until it dries.

How Often You Need To Do This

Repeat this every hour.

Why This Works

Eucalyptus oil can kill the herpes simplex virus effectively and aid quicker healing of the cold sore (15).

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16. Milk

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Cotton ball
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak the cotton ball in milk and apply it on the cold sore.
  2. Hold it in place for a couple of minutes.
How Often You Need To Do This

Do this every two hours.

Why This Works

Milk has antiviral and antibacterial properties (16). It can help in not only clearing the infection but also in soothing your skin.

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17. Toothbrush Hygiene

Toothbrush Pinit

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Change your toothbrush if you develop a cold sore as it could harbor the germs and may even spread the virus. It is better to get a new toothbrush once the sore has healed.

18. Vitamin E

You Will Need
  • Vitamin E oil or capsule
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak the cotton swab in vitamin E oil and apply it on the cold sore.
  2. You can also prick a vitamin E capsule and use the liquid.
  3. Leave it on to dry.
  4. You can also increase your intake of vitamin E-rich foods.
How Often You Need To Do This

Do this multiple times a day.

Why This Works

The anti-inflammatory nature of vitamin E can help in soothing the swelling, inflammation, and pain associated with the cold sores. Oral intake of the vitamin can further help protect you from recurring viral infections (17), (18).

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19. Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe Vera Gel Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Aloe vera gel (as required)
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little aloe vera gel on a cotton swab.
  2. Apply it gently to the sores.
  3. Leave it on until it dries.
How Often You Need To Do This

Do this 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

The antiviral properties of aloe vera and its soothing nature make it a wonderful remedy for treating cold sores (19).

Caution

If you are pregnant or have a chronic medical condition and are under a doctor’s supervision, consult your doctor before undertaking any kind of treatment.

Try any or a combination of the above remedies to get rid of cold sores. It is also important to understand the different stages of cold sores so that you can deal with them better.

Note: Many of these remedies are applied directly to the cold sore. Please don’t use every remedy we suggest or you might end up irritating or causing a burning sensation around the cold sore. Just choose one or two remedies and assess if they are working before moving on to another one.

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Stages Of Cold Sores

  • 1st Stage – Itching and irritating nerve tingling that begin 24 hours before the eruption of blisters.
  • 2nd Stage – Appearance of fluid-filled blisters.
  • 3rd Stage – The blisters burst and ooze, forming painful sores.
  • 4th Stage – The sores dry up and start scabbing and may cause itching and cracking.
  • 5th Stage – The scab finally falls off, and the sore begins healing.

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The signs and symptoms of cold sores are as follows.

Signs And Symptoms

  • A tingling, itching, or burning sensation on the skin before the appearance of the sores.
  • Small fluid-filled blisters (Do not break blisters.)
  • Merging of blisters, followed by their bursting and oozing that will eventually crust over. They may also crust over without breaking.

Usually, during the first outbreak, individuals may experience other symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Ulcerated and/or painful gums
  • A sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

Children under 5 years of age can also develop cold sores inside their mouths or nostrils.

Many factors can play a significant role in triggering cold sores. The following section lists the causes and risk factors.

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Causes And Risk Factors

The main cause of cold sores are some strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 is commonly associated with the onset of cold sores, whereas, HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Both can cause sores in the facial area as well as the genitals.

Once you have had an episode of the herpes infection, the virus continues to remain dormant in your nerve cells (in your skin) and can recur in the same place  over and over when you are under stress.

Some common factors that can trigger a recurrence include:

  • Fever
  • Viral infection
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Fatigue and stress
  • Direct exposure to the sun and wind
  • A weak immune system
  • Hot and ice cold plunges

Factors that may increase your risk of developing cold sores are:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Burns
  • Medical conditions like eczema
  • Treatments like chemotherapy
  • Anti-rejection drugs (given during organ transplants)
  • Dental work that irritates the lips
  • Cosmetic procedures – laser peels, injections near the lips

These factors can increase your risk of developing cold sores, especially after a previous outbreak.

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Although cold sores can heal on their own, they may take up to four weeks to go away completely. Hence, to assist in faster recovery, here are some first aid tips that may help.

How To Prevent Cold Sores

  • If you have been prescribed antiviral medications (ointments), use them regularly.
  • Apply a sunblock daily.
  • Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with those suffering from cold sores.
  • Avoid sharing utensils, towels, lip balms, etc. with the affected individual.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Manage your stress levels.

Cold sores must not be left untreated for too long. If left unattended, they could lead to the following complications.

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Complications

In a few affected individuals, the virus that triggers cold sores can also cause issues in the other parts of the body.

  • Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can spread from around the mouth to the fingertips. This kind of infection is referred to as herpes willow. It is especially common in children who suck their thumbs.
  • The virus can also cause an eye infection. Repeated herpes eye infections can cause scarring or injury, leading to vision problems and even blindness.
  • Those suffering from eczema are at an increased risk of the cold sores spreading all over their body. This is very rare but can lead to a medical emergency.
  • In those with a compromised immune system, the virus can also affect the spinal cord and brain.

Now that you know how important it is to treat cold sores before they take an ugly turn, at the first signs of tingling, use the above remedies along with medical treatment for complete recovery from cold sores.

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Did this post help address all your queries? Get in touch with us through the comments section for any more doubts.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is the difference between cold sores and canker sores?

Cold Sores
  • They are small fluid-filled blisters that occur in clusters on the nose, lips, or anywhere around the mouth.
  • Cold sores can also occur inside the mouth in young children.
  • They are highly contagious and can spread from one individual to another by direct contact like kissing.
  • They can take 2-4 weeks to heal.
  • They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Canker Sores
  • They are small painful lesions that occur on the soft tissues of your mouth and the base of your gums.
  • They usually don’t occur outside the mouth.
  • Canker sores are not contagious.
  • They heal in 1-2 weeks.
  • The exact cause of this condition is not clear, but it is believed to be triggered by minor injuries caused by biting the inside of the mouth; by use of certain oral hygiene products like toothpaste or mouthwash, stress; or food sensitivities.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of B vitamins and minerals can also cause canker sores.

When to see a doctor for cold sores?

If your cold sores are recurrent, or if they do not show signs of healing even after two weeks, it is best to consult a doctor. You must also see a doctor immediately if the infection spreads to other areas of your body.

How long does it take for cold sores to heal?

Cold sores may take anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks to heal completely.

What foods trigger cold sores?

Some foods that are known to trigger outbreaks of herpes viruses include wheat, almonds, peanut butter, and grape juice as they are rich sources of arginine. Arginine is known to help in the replication of herpes viruses and should thus be avoided if you get cold sores frequently. Lysine is the amino acid antidote to arginine and a nutritional treatment for cold sores.

How to get rid of cold sores inside the mouth?

Most of the remedies in the article, like honey, milk, aloe vera gel, coconut oil, garlic, and echinacea, are safe to be used in and around your mouth to get rid of cold sores.

Can pimples turn into cold sores?

No, pimples cannot turn into cold sores as the former are caused by a bacterial infection whereas the latter are a result of a viral infection.

Do cold sores mean you have STD?

Cold sores are usually triggered by Herpes Simplex 1, which is not associated with causing sexually transmitted diseases. However, in some cases, both the viruses can cause an outbreak of cold sores in the facial area as well as the genitals. Herpes Simplex II is a STD.

References

  1. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Ice reduces edema. A study of microvascular permeability in rats.” Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, US National Library of Medicine
  3. The antimicrobial activity of liposomal lauric acids against Propionibacterium acnes.” Biomaterials, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect” MedGenMed, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro.” Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
  6. “[Virus inactivation by hydrogen peroxide].” Voprosy Virusologii, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells” Journal of Inflammation, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses.” Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Efficiency of vanilla, patchouli and ylang ylang essential oils stabilized by iron oxide@C14 nanostructures against bacterial adherence and biofilms formed by Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae clinical strains” Molecules, US National Library of Medicine
  11. Virus inactivation by salt (NaCl) and phosphate supplemented salt in a 3D collagen matrix model for natural sausage casings.” International Journal of Food Microbiology, US National Library of Medicine
  12. Medicinal and cosmetic uses of Bee’s Honey – A review” AYU, US National Library of Medicine
  13. Enhancement of Innate and Adaptive Immune Functions by Multiple Echinacea Species” Journal of Medicinal Food, US National Library of Medicine
  14. The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb” Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, US National Library of Medicine
  15. Antiviral activity of Australian tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus in cell culture.” Die Pharmazie, US National Library of Medicine
  16. Antibacterial and antiviral effects of milk proteins and derivatives thereof.” Current Pharmaceutical Design, US National Library of Medicine
  17. The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases” Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine
  18. Selenium and vitamin E status: impact on viral pathogenicity.” Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
  19. Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In Vitro Study” Journal Of Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine