While most everyone is searching for a quick fix when it comes to cold sore healing, ice could disappoint you. Although ice can definitely provide symptom relief, actual blister healing is unlikely.

Cold sores, caused by HSV-1, require a proven treatment. While ice can help with a plethora of medical issues, a virus is not one of them.

Although message board posts seem to reveal those who claim success after using ice, they are the exceptions. If frozen water were the ultimate remedy for cold sores, then many professionals would be out of work.

We will look at what ice can do to help with cold sores. Additionally, we will mention OTC cold sore treatments that work.

Does Ice Work for Cold Sores?

While ice should never be confused for a legitimate treatment, it can provide temporary relief. Ice can work to help reduce redness, blister swelling, and minor discomfort. In this regard, ice does work for cold sores. However, this is unfortunately where the road likely ends.

The truth is that ice is not able to stop a virus in its tracks. It is always important to remember that cold sores are born from HSV-1. While ice can handle bumps, bruises, and abrasions, cold sores are a different skin condition. To properly engage a virus, a treatment must be administered.

If your idea of “working” involves temporary relief, then ice could be a worthy option at times. On the other hand, if cold sore healing is your goal then you will need to take another route.

It is our recommendation that ice (and ice alone) should never be used as a cold sore prevention or treatment method.

To summarize:

  • Ice can provide marginal relief when it comes to cold sore symptoms. It can potentially reduce swelling, redness, and numb the pain.
  • Ice is not a fever blister treatment, at least not on its own. While ice can be used in tandem with an OTC drug, ice (alone) will not calm a virus.
  • Seek other measures if healing is your goal. However, if all you want is a few moments of relief, then ice will work for you.

How Do You Use Ice to Prevent Cold Sores?

If you feel inclined to use ice, notably at the first sign of trouble, there are a few steps to take. Many of these steps should be familiar. Especially if you have ever used ice to reduce swelling on various parts of the body.

Before we begin, it is important to note that ice can be replaced with a cold compress. While ice is certainly an option, cold compression (of virtually any variety) is the objective. This objective can be met in a variety of ways.

Whether you decide to use ice or a compress, it will need to be wrapped. This is especially true of ice. By wrapping your selection in a napkin, paper towel or even a washcloth, you can achieve better results.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Ice to a Cold Sore

  • Once wrapped, simply apply the prepared dressing directly on the problem area. Keep the ice or compress on the site for at least 5-6 minutes. The discomfort caused by the forming cold sore should slowly diminish. This is due to the numbing effect of the ice or compress.
  • After removing the ice application, wait 10 minutes. This will likely eliminate the possibility of overexposure. Once the allotted time has passed, reapply the remedy. You can repeat this process for a full hour of you feel compelled to do so.
  • If you are using ice, it is important to change out the cubes accordingly. Do not allow the ice to melt away. This will reduce potential effectiveness and also produce a liquid mess.

While this practice will likely reduce your symptoms, you should not expect total healing. In fact, the odds of this practice truly preventing formation is minimal. However, ice will work to quell symptoms, and that is indeed very important.

Using ice to reduce cold sore pain

Will Ice Help With Faster Cold Sore Healing?

While this information will disappoint those who are looking for a quick fix, ice is not the answer. Although ice can reduce pain and symptoms, it will not heal an open cold sore.

In truth, if ice were the great healer, the cold sore market would not be so extensive. If a simple ice cube provided perfect healing, then cold sore OTC medications would not exist.

Most of the time when something is too good to be true, it usually is. This is the case with ice being branded a cold sore healer. While we would be foolish to ignore a few exceptions to the rule, there is no proof that ice heals cold sores.

For this very reason, it is important to distinguish ice accordingly. Ice can be classified as a symptom reducer, but not a cold sore healer.

Can Ice Make Cold Sores Worse?

Ice, when placed on any portion of the skin, can potentially cause irritation. This is especially true if ice is kept in one location for an extended period of time.

Here are 2 ways that the skin can be damaged:

  • Redness, swelling, general irritation, and even burning of the skin are all possible. Ice, especially when dry, can stick to your skin. This can lead to various problems including bleeding.
  • Ice can do quite a bit of damage without responsible habits. You do not want to leave ice on a cold sore for more than 10 minutes at a time. This can cause the skin to become raw. Damaged skin can harm the blister and potentially open the door to infection.

While the ice application noted above should not cause an issue, overexposure can create serious problems. This is why covering an ice cube is vital before application. Ice, in its natural form, can manipulate your cold sore and create more harm than good.

Does ice heal cold sores faster?

OTC (Over-the-counter) Cold Sore Treatments

Like so many natural remedies and DIY solutions, ice is problematic in terms of healing a cold sore. However, hope is not lost thanks to the fact that OTC treatments are plentiful. In fact, the variety of ways, medically speaking, to treat your cold sore is virtually endless.

Courtesy of creams, ointments, lip balm, patches, capsules, and even light technology, you have a plethora of options. And, in some cases, ice can be used as a complementary tool for healing. One of the most common treatment options is lysine supplements have been known to shorten the duration of an outbreak.

If you are in pain ibuprofen and acetaminophen, lidocaine or benzocaine can help.

Whether this is your first cold sore outbreak or blisters are a common occurrence, understand that medicine is your friend. While not every OTC is guaranteed to work, we advise you to try the known waters before taking a different course of action.

Noted below are just a few OTC selections that are worthy of your attention:

  • If you are looking for a way to treat and cover your cold sore, the Compeed Invisible Cold Sore Patch is an option. Promising up to 12 hours of continuous treatment, Compeed is a popular choice.[1]
  • Approved by the FDA to shorten the healing time of cold sores, Abreva cream antiviral medication is a highly touted solution.[2] The product promises to remedy your cold sores in as little as 48 hours.
  • Containing a host of cold sore fighting ingredients, HERP RESCUE is a capsule remedy. FDA approved, it can dramatically reduce healing time.
  • Are you interested in skipping the pills, patches, and creams for a healing device? If so, the Virulite Electronic Cold Sore Treatment Device could work for you. FDA approved, this product uses light technology to heal cold sores fast.[3] In fact, the product only has to be used 3 times per day for 2 days to achieve effective healing.

While ice can relieve cold sore symptoms and perhaps work in conjunction with an OTC, ice alone is not a cure. Frozen water cannot quell a virus. However, FDA approved OTC medications can. By taking this route, you will likely find fast healing and satisfying results.


What Are Some Common Prescription Medications Used as Cold Sore Remedies?

Because cold sores are caused by a virus, your doctor may recommend an antiviral drug to help you heal faster. Cold sore antiviral medications include acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and penciclovir (Denavir).

What Home Remedies Can Be Used for Cold Sores?

Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and more are beneficial. Aloe vera gel is also a common home remedy for small blisters on the mouth. Try to avoid foods with the amino acid arginine such as chocolate.

What Are Some Common Cold Sore Triggers?

The herpes simplex virus is one of the most common triggers. Beside that, there are many other causes that could trigger an outbreak, such as exposure to hot sun, dry air, a cold, an illness, a weakened immune system, hormonal changes or even stress.


  1. Karlsmark, T. , Goodman, J. , Drouault, Y. , Lufrano, L. , Pledger, G. and , Randomized clinical study comparing Compeed® cold sore patch to acyclovir cream 5% in the treatment of herpes simplex labialis. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2008;22: 1184-1192. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2008.02761.x
  2. Treister N.S., Woo S.B. Topical n-docosanol for management of recurrent herpes labialis. Expert Opin. Pharmacother. 2010;11:853–860. doi: 10.1517/14656561003691847.
  3. Dougal, G. and Lee, S. Y. Evaluation of the efficacy of low‐level light therapy using 1072 nm infrared light for the treatment of herpes simplex labialis. Clin Exp Dermatol, 2013;38: 713-718. doi:10.1111/ced.12069