While Bactine is synonymous with treating cuts and abrasions, some people also use it to sterilize and heal cold sores. This is due to a potent active ingredient found in a cold sore treatment that’s no longer available over the counter. Let’s find out if you can use bactine for cold sores.

Complete with benzalkonium chloride and lidocaine, it seems to be developing somewhat of a following. While the product has always been well-known, many people who get fever blisters have turned to Bactine for help.

While nothing is foolproof, it could be a worthy treatment. This is especially true if you have tried other treatments and they have proven to be ineffective. We all respond differently to remedies.

You will learn more about Bactine, how it became a cold sore healer, and what it can potentially do for you. Let’s take a look now…

What Is Bactine?

Bactine is an antiseptic that has been on the market for almost 70 years. Primarily used to treat minor cuts and scrapes, it has been a household staple for many decades. Advertisements, both on radio and television, often feature parents applying Bactine to their child’s abrasions.

Containing the active ingredients benzalkonium chloride and lidocaine, Bactine can clean damaged skin and numb the problem area. Designed to prevent infection, Bactine also soothes compromised skin. This is especially good for children who would naturally be tempted to scratch the area.

To summarize:

  • Bactine has been used to fight infection and heal damaged skin since 1950.
  • The active ingredients serve as an antiseptic as well as a numbing agent. These two properties work in tandem to treat the damaged skin while also providing comfort.
  • It can be purchased as a cleansing spray or a first aid liquid.

Should You Use Bactine For Cold Sores?

The way Bactine became a cold sore treatment method is intriguing. Courtesy of one key ingredient and also found in an established cold sore products, and it became an option for some.

Several years ago a product called Viroxyn hit the market. Branded as a fast-acting cold sore healer, Viroxyn[1] was available to the public. However, after many twists and turns, the FDA cracked down on the product.

In a nutshell, the FDA declared Viroxyn for professional use only. The product still exists today, but it can only be given out by medical professionals.

How does this story relate to Bactine? One of the main ingredients in Viroxyn is benzalkonium chloride. This is what makes Viroxyn so effective. As noted earlier, Bactine also includes this ingredient. 0.13% to be exact.

Upon learning this information, people began to purchase Bactine for use beyond simple cuts and abrasions. Most notably the first aid liquid.

Serving to coat cold sores, Bactine can potentially prevent HSV-1 from attaching to skin cells. This prevention method has the potential to heal cold sores at the earliest of symptoms. Similar in many ways to Viroxyn.

While results will obviously vary, the Internet is filled with many testimonials where people are singing the praises of Bactine.

Can Bactine Heal Cold Sores Fast?

The potential for fast healing is there simply based on Bactine’s active ingredients. Some users have reported total healing in as little as 2-3 days.

The best course of action is to use Bactine as soon as cold sore symptoms strike. The initial lip/mouth tingle or slightest sign of discomfort is the ideal time for treatment.

While some people mix Bactine Liquid Aid with rubbing alcohol, just as many choose not to do so. Rubbing alcohol is likely to produce a stinging sensation, so apply at your own risk.

Applying Bactine To Treat Cold Sores

Noted below is a Step-by-Step Guide for a common Bactine application technique:

  1. Using Bactine liquid treatment, apply the formula to a cotton ball or cotton swab.
  2. With a careful and steady hand, apply the treatment to the problem area. It is important to focus only on the point of concern. Once the cotton strikes the infected area, it has now become contaminated. Additional contact with other parts of your body could spread HSV-1.[2]
  3. Bactine contains lidocaine which will numb the skin. However, this could have a negative impact as it relates to applying pressure. Not being able to feel the area, you could cause irritation and not be aware of the negative effects. Be as “visually gentle” as possible. This is especially critical if you are using Bactine at the scab stage.
  4. Regarding treatment duration, continue to apply Bactine until all symptoms have vanished. If an active blister has already formed, continue treatment until the latter stages of scab coverage.
  5. Bactine Liquid Aid is the treatment of choice for precautionary reasons. While Bactine cleansing spray contains the same ingredients, spray can be dangerous. The last thing you want to do is spray any solution on your lips. The liquid can enter your mouth, nose, eyes, etc. For a concentrated effort, we highly advise you purchase the liquid treatment aid.

Does Bactine Have Any Side Effects?

While major (extremely rare) side effects can accompany most any form of medicine, Bactine’s effects are minor.

Although the vast majority of users will have no issues at all, some people could endure skin discomfort. Most problems associated with Bactine will naturally remedy themselves once product use has been stopped.

As a critical warning, do not use Bactine if you are allergic to any of the main ingredients. You should always consult your physician if you notice any serious side effects.

Some of the most documented side effects are as follows:

  • Burning sensation in the site area
  • Rash
  • Skin irritation (itching)

As it relates to cold sore treatment side effects, burning and irritation would likely be the concerns. While not likely to cause infection, a side effect could cause a delay in the healing process.

For an extensive look at Bactine and a complete guide to this product, please visit drugs.com.

To summarize:

  • Like all forms of medicine, Bactine can produce side effects. The odds of anything more than minor skin irritation are highly unlikely.
  • Do not use Bactine if you are allergic to any of the product’s active ingredients.

Bactine For Cold Sores

Other “Unconventional” Cold Sore Treatments

When it comes to what could be classified as unconventional, natural remedies and DIY methods lead the way.

With the exception of Vicks VapoRub, there are not many stories like Bactine. Brand products that are used beyond their original intent. Perhaps this is what has given Bactine somewhat of a cult following. Especially on various health related message boards.

While measures such as apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and essential oils are trendy, OTC products will always win the day.

Selections such as Abreva, Orajel, and HERP-B-GONE are proven treatments. In fact, many selections have been FDA approved.

While this is in no way to suggest that unconventional means are a fool’s errand, there are numerous products designed to treat cold sores. If you have HSV-1, we advise you to test the OTC brands first before taking another route.

To recap:

  • Unconventional methods are trendy but trusted OTC cold sore treatment methods are advised.
  • Bactine is an interesting case. Not many medical aid products, designed for other means, make a crossover into cold sores. Vicks VapoRub would be another example.
  • Try OTC products before taking an alternative route.


The biggest takeaway from this material involves the active ingredients in Bactine. This is especially important considering a major player in the cold sore game, Viroxyn, uses the same active base.

If Viroxyn, which is touted as a successful treatment, contains benzalkonium chloride, then Bactine is worth a try. While the results may vary, Bactine is certainly worth a go, especially considering that it is a household name and has a proven track record.

Conditions such as HSV-1 will always lend themselves to experimental treatments. While some can be very dangerous, others can be worth your time. If you know the worse result is an ineffective result, and you are naturally more inclined to try most any treatment.

Although OTC cold sore treatment brands are likely to perform much better, Bactine, if used responsibly, could be a worthy option. I hope our article helped you understand if you can use bactine for cold sores.


  1. https://www.drugs.com/otc/119151/viroxyn-professional-use.html
  2. Arora R, Chattopadhyay S, Agrawal S, Chatterjee S. Self-inflicted herpetic whitlow. BMJ Case Reports. 2014;2014:bcr2013201817. doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-201817.