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Toothpaste on Cold Sores—Does it Work?

FALSE. HSV-1 is a form of the herpes simplex virus that usually affects the lips or mouth, but can spread to the eyes or genitals. This does not mean you have genital herpes as this is caused by the other form of the virus, HSV-2.

FALSE. HSV-1 is a form of the herpes simplex virus that usually affects the lips or mouth, but can spread to the eyes or genitals. This does not mean you have genital herpes as this is caused by the other form of the virus, HSV-2.

FALSE. Cold sores are contagious from the first tingle until completely healed.

FALSE. Cold sores are contagious from the first tingle until completely healed.

Man putting white ointment on cold sore

Navigating a cold sore requires patience. Whether you feel one coming on and are experiencing the common tingling or burning sensations, or you’re already noticing a cold sore forming near your lips, keeping a cold sore at bay can feel challenging. Many people look for fast-acting home remedies to help mitigate symptoms. You might have tried a remedy your grandparent swears by, or have spent plenty of time searching on the web for the best home remedies for cold sores. Here, we cover a frequently used method by sufferers at home: toothpaste on cold sores. While used by many, does toothpaste really get rid of cold sores? Is this method ineffective? Let’s explore a bit more.

Toothpaste on Cold Sores

It’s possible that you’ve heard toothpaste can help treat a cold sore. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research to suggest that toothpaste is effective for cold sore treatment. 1 According to anecdotes from users who believe toothpaste can help soothe cold sores, the ingredient known as sodium lauryl sulfate present in some toothpastes may help dry the sores. 2 While this method may work for some individuals, toothpastes are made with a variety of ingredients that can further irritate the affected area and make cold sores even worse, ultimately prolonging the healing time. 3 So, before deciding to put toothpaste or any other home remedy on a developing or fully developed cold sore, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to make sure you won’t be making matter worse.

While treating your cold sore with toothpaste might be tempting, along with other home remedies, remember that most cold sores heal on their own. 4  If you begin to experience symptoms of a cold sore such as tingling, burning, and itching, it’s best to begin using over-the-counter topical treatments, as well as medication to help with inflammation such as Ibuprofen or Advil. 5 You might also consider an ice pack or cold beverages to help soothe the skin. Abreva cream is also an over-the-counter cold sore medication proven to shorten the duration of a cold sore. When applying any ointment or treatment to your cold sore, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands. The herpes simplex virus is highly contagious!
  2. Use a clean cotton swab to apply treatment to the cold sore. 6 If the over-the-counter product comes with its own instructions for use, be sure to follow as directed.
  3. Throw out the used cotton swab and do not use it on any other areas so as not to spread the virus.
  4. Wash your hands when finished.

If for any reason you begin to see a spread of the virus to other areas of the body, be sure to contact your physician immediately. It may be tempting to try everything under the sun and in your medicine cabinet, like toothpaste, to keep you cold sore under control, but remember that less can be more and your cold sore will likely heal on its own. Continue to wash your hands and use recommended over-the-counter medication to treat your cold sore. For more questions on home remedies, treatment, and other topics such as this, be sure to browse the Abreva site.

SOURCES

1-6. Does popping a cold sore help it heal? MedicalNewsToday. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/popping-a-cold-sore. Accessed 1/10/2021. All citations highlighted in yellow in source PDF.