Back to Dealing with Cold Sores articles

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When you have a cold sore, you want to act on it quickly. You may end up trying remedies that friends, family or health websites recommend but you may find that these aren’t clinically proven.

Some remedies may offer only temporary symptom relief, while others may have the potential to make the cold sore worse. With lots of anecdotal evidence out there, let’s separate the medicines from the myths.

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Lemon Juice

Applying lemon juice to your cold sore might fight off bacteria, but it won’t help against the virus.1

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Tea Bags

Using tea bags may cool down any redness around the cold sore, but it won’t fight the infection.1

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Alcohol/Witch Hazel

Rubbing alcohol and witch hazel are astringents. They might dry out the cold sore but they are not clinically proven to heal them.2

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Ice may provide temporary pain relief and help reduce redness and swelling.1

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Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is known to have antiseptic properties. It might encourage the natural healing process by drying out the cold sore and may prevent bacterial infection, but it’s not clinically proven to treat cold sores.3

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Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract is alcohol based. As an astringent, it may function in the same way as rubbing alcohol or witch hazel.

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Salt Water

Salt may help change the environment around the virus so it can’t thrive. While it might dry up the cold sore, it can also be painful to your skin.2

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Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly may help soften the skin and provide a protective layer against infection. It will not shorten the healing time of the cold sore.

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Hot Compress

Using a hot compress (a clean towel soaked with warm-hot water) may help reduce the inflammation, but won’t shorten the healing process. It can be applied over the sores in an interval of 20 minutes.1

Although these remedies may help with temporary symptom relief, or to minimize bacterial infection, they are not clinically proven to heal cold sores like Abreva Cream is. In clinical testing, Abreva has been proven to reduce healing time of cold sores when used at the first sign of a cold sore.

If you have any questions regarding cold sore treatments and remedies, your healthcare professional is the best person to offer advice.