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A man using a cotton swab to apply ointment to cold sores on his lips

How to Treat Cold Sores

If you get a painful cold sore, you don’t need to let it sideline you. Taking the right steps right away can help reduce discomfort and shorten the duration and healing time of painful cold sore symptoms. When you’re facing an annoying cold sore, this helpful 5-step regimen can help you fight back.

Make time for things

Step 1: Act quickly and apply Abreva® Cream

The best way to help a cold sore heal faster is by applying Abreva® Cream with 10 percent docosanol as soon as you feel the onset of a cold sore. Abreva® Cream starts to work immediately by shortening the duration of pain, itching, burning, and tingling. It’s the only nonprescription cold sore medicine approved by the FDA to shorten healing time. When applied at the first sign, Abreva® is clinically proven to heal a cold sore in as little as 2½ days*. Simply put, it’s your best defense for fighting off a cold sore.

Curb your procrastination

Step 2: Take away the pain with Abreva Rapid Pain Relief

There’s nothing to gain by toughing it out. Abreva Rapid Pain Relief is a clear gel that contains a powerful analgesic to temporarily numb your pain while your cold sore heals. Use this product to get quick, targeted pain relief from your cold sore. Its active ingredient, maximum-strength lidocaine, provides pain relief until your cold sore heals. The gel also contains glycerin to prevent cracking in the infected area. The inactive ingredient menthol provides cooling relief.**


Learn something new

Step 3: Cool the area down with a cold compress

Similar to using ice to relieve a painful sprain or sports injury, placing a cool, wet towel on a cold sore can help reduce pain, redness and swelling. Apply a cold compress 3 times a day for 10 minutes at a time to help it feel better.


Avoid hot beverages and foods that are salty, spicy, or acidic

Step 4: Avoid hot beverages and foods that are salty, spicy, or acidic

Steer clear of foods that are likely to irritate a cold sore. Things like pretzels, curry, hot sauce, or citrus fruits could aggravate your cold sore and make the pain worse.1


Set small goals

Step 5: Don’t be picky

Keep your hands off that cold sore. Resist the temptation to pick at it because you may prolong the healing process or make it more irritated. Remember, cold sores are contagious: if you accidently touch it, DO NOT touch any other body parts, especially your eyes. Be sure to wash your hands as soon as possible to avoid spreading it to another area or to somebody else.

Now you know exactly what to do next time something triggers a cold sore so you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.


*Median healing time 4.1 days. 25% of users healed in 2.5 days.**Use as directed. Abreva Cream and Abreva Rapid Pain Relief are not intended to be used together.

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