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How to Stop a Cold Sore From Forming

Cold sores are infectious clusters of fluid-filled lesions that are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1, according to the Mayo Clinic 12. If you’ve had cold sores, you may notice a cold sore forming a couple of days before you can see it 1. Although there is no way to completely prevent cold sores or make a cold sore go away when it is already forming, you may be able to take some steps to reduce risk of outbreaks and limit the length of an outbreak 1.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Sleep at night and apply sunblock during the day. Not getting sufficient sleep and spending too much time in the sun without using sunblock are two common cold sore triggers, because they result in undue stress to your body, according to the Mayo Clinic 2. Aim for about eight hours of sleep to feel refreshed in the morning and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before you go outdoors.

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Identify warning signs of a cold sore breakout. Pain and tingling in the affected area commonly precede cold sore blisters by one or two days, according to the Mayo Clinic 2. Outside mouth areas such as the lips, chin and inner nostrils are the most common places where you can anticipate cold sores to erupt, according to MedlinePlus 1.

Ask your doctor about oral antiviral medications. You may be able to diminish some pain and shorten the duration of the outbreak if you take an oral medication such as Valtrex or Zorivax as soon as you feel warning signs of a cold sore, according to the Mayo Clinic 2.

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Keep your hands away from your cold sore. You may end up spreading the virus to other parts of your body if you pick or squeeze a cold sore and then touch an open wound or a mucus membrane such as your mouth, nose or vagina, warns KidsHealth, a part of the Nemours Foundation 3.

Wash your hands frequently. Though you shouldn’t mess with active cold sores, you may accidentally touch one and increase your risk of spreading the virus and damaging sensitive areas of your body such as your eyes 1. Wash your hands any time you think you might have touched your cold sore and consistently wash them throughout the day.


See your doctor if your sores don’t heal within a week to 10 days if you frequently get cold sores, if you have a health problem that has weakened your immune system or if you notice symptoms such as fever, pus and redness, recommends KidsHealth.