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What gets rid of cold sores overnight?

What are cold sores?

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and are very contagious. Once a person is infected with HSV-1, the virus stays in the body for life. Stress, fatigue, sickness, or skin damage can trigger the virus to become active again, leading to another cold sore outbreak. Cold sores usually heal within 2-3 weeks without treatment.

Common Symptoms of Cold Sores

  • Tingling, burning, or itching around the mouth
  • Redness or swelling on or around the lips
  • Small fluid-filled blisters, usually on the edges of the red area
  • Oozing and crusting as the blisters break open
  • Soreness or pain around the mouth

The first signs of a cold sore are often tingling, burning, or itching in the area where the blisters will develop. The cold sore outbreak tends to follow a pattern:

Stage Duration Symptoms
Tingling/Itching 1-2 days Mild tingling, burning or itching sensation around the mouth
Blistering 2-4 days Fluid-filled blisters develop, containing viral particles. May be accompanied by swelling and redness.
Oozing/Crusting 4-6 days Blisters may burst and leak fluid, then crust over and start to heal.
Healing 7-10 days The cold sore scabs over and gradually fades away.

What can get rid of cold sores overnight?

Unfortunately, there is no magic cure that can get rid of a cold sore entirely overnight once it has started to develop. However, prompt treatment as soon as the tingling sensation begins can help halt progression of the cold sore and speed healing. Here are some remedies that may help reduce cold sore duration:

Oral antiviral medication

Antiviral medications like acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir can stop the replication of the virus if taken at first signs of an outbreak. Starting medication when the tingling begins can help limit the size and severity of the cold sore. The medicine may also shorten healing time by 1-2 days.


Applying an ice cube or cold compress to the area can help ease pain, reduce inflammation, and slow down replication of the virus. Do this a few times a day for 10 minutes at a time. Make sure to wrap the ice or use a cold compress, never apply directly on the skin.

Skin protectants

Petroleum jelly or medicated creams and gels containing ingredients like phenol, menthol, and zinc oxide form a protective barrier over the cold sore. This can prevent cracking and spread of the virus while also providing soothing relief. Reapply frequently. Popular products include Abreva, Carmex, and Releev.

Saltwater rinse

Gargling with warm salt water 2-3 times a day can help ease pain and speed healing of cold sores inside the mouth or on the gums. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.

Lysine supplements

Lysine is an essential amino acid that seems to block arginine, another amino acid that may promote HSV replication. Taking a lysine supplement or eating lysine-rich foods at first signs of tingling may help suppress the virus. Foods high in lysine include meat, fish, beans, eggs, and dairy.

Avoid triggers

During an outbreak, avoid spicy foods, citrus, nuts, chocolate, coffee, or other foods that may irritate the cold sore. Also avoid kissing, oral sex, sharing beverages or utensils, or other activities that could spread the virus while you are contagious.

Home remedies to avoid

Some home remedies for cold sores may do more harm than good or have no proven benefits. Avoid the following:

  • Toothpaste – Can irritate the skin and delay healing
  • Alcohol or peroxide – Can dry out and damage skin
  • Garlic or essential oils – May burn or sting
  • Tea bags – Unproven and may transfer bacteria
  • Popping blisters – Can spread the infection and delay healing

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • It is your first cold sore outbreak
  • Cold sores last longer than 2 weeks
  • Symptoms are severe or spreading
  • You have a weakened immune system
  • You experience eye irritation or sores inside the mouth

For severe cases, oral antiviral medication may be prescribed. Your doctor can also rule out other conditions like impetigo or oral herpes.

How to prevent future cold sore outbreaks

While cold sores cannot be cured, you can take steps to avoid frequent recurrences:

  • Take a daily lysine supplement
  • Avoid triggers like stress, fatigue, and sun exposure
  • Use SPF lip balm to protect from sun
  • Don’t share drinks, lip products, towels, or razors
  • Avoid touching or popping blisters
  • Keep your immune system strong through diet, exercise, and sleep
  • Take antiviral medication at first tingling to prevent outbreak

Although frustrating and uncomfortable, cold sores usually clear up on their own. Using prompt treatment and avoiding triggers can help speed healing and prevent spread of the virus to others.


While there is no overnight cure for cold sores once blisters emerge, starting treatment right away at the tingling stage can help halt progression of the outbreak and encourage faster healing. Oral antiviral medications, lysine supplements, ice, skin protectants, and avoidance of irritants are go-to remedies for reducing cold sore duration. With some TLC and time, the pesky blisters will soon disappear. Being proactive about prevention through medications, lip protection, and lifestyle factors can also help thwart future flare ups and stop the herpes simplex virus in its tracks.