There are several medications available to treat cold sores. Some are used topically and others are taken orally. Cold sores are best treated as early as possible. Starting a medication when prodromal symptoms such as burning, tingling, or redness start gives the best chance of keeping the cold sores from developing or shortening their course.
There are many antiviral drugs available for the treatment of cold sores. When used properly they can decrease the time it takes for cold sores to heal, reduce symptoms, prevent lesions from developing, reduce the size of lesions developed, and reduce the amount of viral shedding.
Over the counter Medications:
Abreva is the only non-prescription cold sore medicine approved by the FDA to shorten healing time and the duration of symptoms. Abreva contains 10% docosanol, a unique patented active ingredient that helps protect healthy cells from the cold sore infection. Abreva is safe and can be used by adults and children 12 years and older.
Denavir (Penciclovir) is FDA approved for recurrent cold sores. Starting treatment within one hour of an outbreak is most effective. Denavir also decreases the duration viral shedding. The earlier denavir is started the better the benefits, but improvement was still found when denavir was started even after vesicles developed.
Zovirax (Acyclovir) is FDA approved for the treatment of recurrent cold sores. Zovirax cream is prescribed for herpes cold sores on the face and lips only. Zovirax liquid, capsules and tablets are also prescribed for other herpes viruses, such as genital herpes, shingles and chickenpox.
Famvir (famciclovir) is an FDA approved antiviral medication for the suppression or treatment of recurrent genital herpes or recurrent cold sores, although Famvir is most commonly prescribed to treat herpes zoster, commonly referred to as shingles.
Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is approved by the FDA to treat certain herpes infections, including herpes zoster (the painful rash known as shingles), genital herpes, and herpes cold sores on the face and lips. Valtrex should not be used by anyone with a weak immune system, such as those with HIV infection or those who have undergone a bone marrow or kidney transplant. Valtrex can cause serious side effects, including death, in such people.