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What heals cold sores overnight?

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 contagious. While cold sores usually heal on their own within 7-10 days, some people look for ways to get rid of them more quickly. Is it really possible to get rid of a cold sore overnight?

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores are caused by HSV-1. Many people are exposed to this virus in childhood, often through contact with a parent or family member who has it. The virus then lies dormant in the nerves until something triggers an outbreak. Triggers can include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Fever
  • Menstruation
  • Sun exposure
  • Skin damage

When triggered, the virus travels down the nerve to the skin and causes a cold sore outbreak. The sores usually heal within 7-10 days without treatment.

Can cold sores be healed overnight?

While there is no cure for cold sores, some over-the-counter products can help speed healing and reduce pain if applied at the first sign of a cold sore. However, it is very unlikely that a cold sore will completely heal overnight.

The herpes simplex virus causes damage deep within the skin that takes time to repair. Most cold sores go through the following stages before healing completely:

  • Tingling or itching
  • Redness and swelling
  • Small blisters
  • Oozing and crusting
  • Scab formation
  • Healing

While the right treatment can help shorten the duration of a cold sore outbreak, it is not realistic to expect it to disappear completely overnight. The healing process takes several days at minimum.

What helps heal cold sores faster?

While not overnight fixes, the following evidence-based treatments may help speed up healing when applied at the first sign of a cold sore:

Antiviral Creams

Antiviral creams like acyclovir (brand name Zovirax) and penciclovir (brand name Denavir) can shorten healing time by 1-2 days when applied repeatedly at the first sign of a cold sore. They work by interfering with the virus’s ability to replicate.

Oral Antiviral Medications

Oral antiviral medicines like acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, when taken at the first sign of a cold sore, can reduce healing time by up to 2 days. A prescription is needed for these medications.

Hydrocolloid Patches

Hydrocolloid patches provide a protective barrier over a cold sore to promote healing. The patch protects the area from irritation, retains moisture, and absorbs fluid, which may help shorten the healing time.

Lysine Supplements

Some studies suggest the amino acid lysine may help speed up healing by blocking arginine, which promotes HSV-1 replication. Typical dosing is 500-3000 mg per day.

Treatment Healing Time
No treatment 7-10 days
Antiviral creams 5-8 days
Oral antivirals 5-8 days
Hydrocolloid patches 6-9 days
Lysine supplements 6-9 days

While these treatments may shorten healing time, it’s unlikely for a cold sore to fully heal overnight. But prompt treatment can help reduce pain and duration.

Home remedies for cold sores

There are also some home remedies that may help soothe cold sore pain and speed healing when applied at the first sign of a cold sore:

Cold Compress

A cold compress can help ease pain and swelling. Hold a cold washcloth or ice cubes wrapped in a towel against the cold sore for 5-10 minutes several times a day.

Aloe Vera

The anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties of aloe vera may promote healing. Apply an aloe vera gel to the cold sore 3-5 times per day.

Tea Tree Oil

Diluted tea tree oil may have antiviral effects. Mix a drop or two of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and dab onto the cold sore 2-3 times a day.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm contains compounds that may fight viruses. Brew lemon balm tea and gently press the cooled tea bag onto the cold sore or apply lemon balm extract. Reapply several times per day.

Home Remedy Method
Cold compress Hold cold cloth against sore for 5-10 minutes several times daily
Aloe vera Apply aloe gel to sore 3-5 times daily
Tea tree oil Mix with carrier oil and dab onto sore 2-3 times daily
Lemon balm Apply lemon balm tea bag or extract to sore several times daily

How to prevent cold sores

While not a cure, these tips may help prevent cold sore outbreaks:

  • Use lip balm with SPF daily
  • Avoid direct sun exposure
  • Treat fever, illness, and stress promptly
  • Avoid sharing food/drinks
  • Take antiviral medication preventively
  • Avoid skin irritants during outbreaks

Sun protection

Use lip balm with SPF 30 or higher daily and limit sun exposure. UV light is a common trigger for many people.

Manage triggers

Staying hydrated, getting good sleep, and effectively managing stress, illness, and fever can help avoid triggers and prevent outbreaks.

Antiviral medication

If you experience frequent recurrences, daily preventive antiviral medication may reduce outbreaks. Talk to your doctor.


While it is very difficult to completely heal a cold sore overnight, prompt treatment with antiviral creams, hydrocolloid patches, oral meds, and home remedies can shorten the duration of an outbreak by a few days. Taking preventive measures can also help avoid them. Speak to your doctor if you experience frequent cold sores to discuss treatment options.