Cold sores are painful and unsightly. While they will go away on their own, most of us seek out the best over-the-counter cold sore medicine. This will help in getting rid of a cold sore fast, and with much less pain.

When you can recognize the symptoms, you can start a treatment plan right away. Some over-the-counter (OTC) meds work well. That will help to alleviate pain and discomfort, putting you on the pathway to a faster recovery (in as little as 2  to 4 days).

Cold sores go through stages. They begin with almost unnoticeable symptoms, which is when you should start using over-the-counter creams. The next stages, however, are usually when we seek out the top treatment for cold sores because the pain and embarrassment become too much.

A cold sore will form like a blister. In a few days, that blister will burst. After it bursts, it will begin to scab or crust over, which is likely to be the most painful stage. Moisturizing and healing ingredients are essential when the blister has burst open and become exposed.

The sooner you start treatment (as soon as you spot the symptoms), the better. This will help to reduce the impact and intensity as the cold sores progress. You no longer have to wait for two weeks for cold sores to clear up on their own.

Note: If viewing this table from a mobile device, scroll from left to right to look at all of the information.

Virulite CS Original Cold Sores, Fever Blister, Canker Sore, Mouth Sore Relief, Pain Relief Health Agency Regulated for Safety
FDA Approved?
Money Back?
Orajel Single Dose Cold Sore Treatment, 0.04 Oz, 2 Count
FDA Approved?
Money Back?
Abreva 10 Percent Docosanol Cold Sore Treatment, Treats Your Fever Blister in 2.5 Days - 0.07 oz Tube x 2
FDA Approved?
Money Back?
Read Review
Zilactin Cold Sore Gel, Medicated Gel 0.25 oz
FDA Approved?
Money Back?
Read Review

What’s the Best OTC Cold Sore Medicine?

No two cold sore creams or devices are equal. Here, you’ll find some of the best products on the market for soothing and healing cold sores. Not only can they help with symptoms, but some will speed up the healing time dramatically. The sooner that the symptoms of your blisters go away, the better and more confident that you’ll feel.

#1 Virulite Electronic Cold Sore Treatment

Unlike many other OTC cold sore meds, the Virulite Electronic Device doesn’t require any creams or gels to heal blisters. Instead, it focuses on an FDA-approved light technology. It’s not strictly a medicine, but we’ve included it because it works and you may not know that it exists.

These light wavelengths work as a catalyst for your immune system. When you place the battery-powered device over the cold sore, it will stimulate your immune system to focus on that particular spot. This helps your body to speed up the healing process and reduce pain naturally.

This is technology that has been used by medical professionals for years. This particular device has undergone years of clinical studies and trials and has come back time and time again with effective results for getting rid of cold sores in a fraction of the time.


  • FDA-Approved
  • Automatic shut off when treatment is complete
  • Dual activation switches for safety


  • Treatment only takes three minutes a day.
  • The automatic timer ensures you’ll get the right amount of treatment.
  • Internal safety features so you can’t misuse the device.
  • No side effects and drug interactions, which is especially helpful for older and immunocompromised patients.


  • Manufacturer warranty is only good for one year.
  • The battery included in the device works on 10-20 cold sores. It will need to be replaced after that.

The Virulite system can be used at any stage of your cold sore. If you’re starting to notice symptoms like tingling or itching, you should start using it right away. If you’re already experiencing a painful blister, you can use it to reduce pain and speed up the overall healing process.

We’ve performed a comparison of the best light devices for cold sores.

The average cold sore treatment option can take days before you start seeing results. The Virulite cold sore machine has been proven in multiple studies and reviews to cut that time in more than five days and work consistently, without any adverse side effects or symptoms associated with its use.

Check the Price of the Virulite Cold Sore Treatment Device!

#2 HERP-B-GONE Cold Sore Cream

HERP-B-GONE uses essential oils and anti-viral ingredients to fight against cold sores. It was formulated by a doctor, using non-toxic ingredients to heal cold sores quickly. Many of the oils used have either antiviral, anti-inflammatory, or antiseptic properties.

Active ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint oil


  • Discreet packaging
  • Can be applied at first sign of an outbreak
  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed
  • Promotes fast healing


  • Can irritate people with allergies to certain natural oils

Overall, HERP-B-GONEis one of the best ways to treat a cold sore. Not only does it receive high praise from nearly every reviewer, but the company even offers a money back guarantee.

It works so well that many people benefit from its healing properties in just two or three days. Compared to the 10-14 days a cold sore typically takes to heal on its own, this proven natural solution offers enormous value to the cold sore sufferer.

Check the Price of HERP-B-GONE Cream on Amazon!

#3 Abreva Cold Sore Cream

Abreva uses an active ingredient called docosanol. That helps to protect healthy cells around the infected area from becoming infected, too. As those cells stay healthy, they can better fight off the infected cells. This speeds up the healing time and helps to alleviate the symptoms.


  • FDA-Approved
  • Heals cold sores from inside out
  • Available for use at home and on-the-go


  • Can be used up to five times a day
  • Moisturizes
  • Dries clear
  • Odorless
  • Does more than just mask the symptoms


  • Risk of spreading the virus through finger application
  • Not good for sores near the inside of the mouth

When you use Abreva as soon as you notice cold sore symptoms, you can reduce the time it takes to heal significantly. The average healing time is 4.1 days while using the product, but it can happen in just 2.5 days. Its patented signature ingredient makes it ideal for getting rid of cold sores fast.

Check the Price of Abreva Cream on Amazon!

#4 Orajel Cold Sore Treatment

Orajel provides pain relief for the burning and discomfort that comes with cold sores.

It uses antiseptic and anesthetic ingredients to get rid of cold sore pain quickly. Because it penetrates the skin, this single-dose treatment will decrease the effects of the symptoms until the cold sore has completely healed.


  • A no-touch applicator


  • The applicator allows the area around the cold sore to be cleaned, so medication can deeply penetrate
  • Instant pain relief


  • A single dose may not be enough for everyone
  • Doesn’t reduce the healing time

If the pain is the biggest problem with your cold sore, Orajel is a great solution. Sometimes, the symptoms of the blister can be the worst part. While it may not help to speed up healing, it can get rid of the pain that makes the blister so bad in the first place.

If you don’t regularly experience flare-ups, the single-use design is good value. It’s easy to apply and makes life more tolerable.

Check the Price of Orajel Single Dose Treatment on Amazon!

Benefits of Over-the-Counter Creams & Gels

You can expect the use of OTC treatments to achieve the following:

  • Speed up the healing time by up to 75%
  • Reduce pain and discomfort
  • Prevent cold sore from spreading

Reducing the time it takes for a cold sore is what most people want. Getting rid of pain is essential, but many people want to remove the visual symptoms, too.

Even the top-rated treatments may not be able to heal a cold sore overnight fully. Typically, it takes anywhere from 2-4 days for the blister to become significantly less noticeable. However, everyone reacts differently to treatments and medicines.

The best thing you can do to ensure a treatment works is to follow the instructions carefully. You should also do what you can to reduce the risk of spreading the cold sore to other parts of the body. If a product suggests that you can use it several times each day, take advantage. The more often you use it, the more the medicated ingredients will be able to penetrate the infected area.

Cold Sores Getting Worse with Age

OTC Cold Sore Medicine vs. Prescription Medication

People who suffer from cold sores frequently may seek out a prescription medication. Some are stronger in their dosage. That can be helpful for people who have frequent outbreaks or if your cold sores are painful. However, if you only experience flare-ups now and then, and they heal within two weeks, OTC medicine is preferred.

You should see a doctor if your cold sores get worse. If the pain doesn’t start to subside, even with OTC medication, consult with your doctor for further treatment. If it is allowed to get worse, it is possible that a cold sore can spread to the eyes.

For the most part, however, over-the-counter medication is the best way to get rid of cold sores fast. If you have normal symptoms and feel a cold sore coming on, you can begin using most OTC treatments with immediate effect.

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

Side effects that occur due to the use of topical cold sore treatments are rare. Most antiviral meds are safe for people on other prescription medicines, and also for women who are pregnant.

The most common side effects occur due to allergic reactions. See a doctor if you are unfortunate enough to experience any of the following reactions:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Excessive itching
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or face

Always use an OTC cold sore medicine as directed and never take them orally. Some gels require the application with a finger, allowing you to rub it directly into the skin. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying, or you may increase the risk of spreading the infection elsewhere.

Natural Ways to Treat Cold Sores

The best part about a natural treatment option is that there are very few side effects. Some of the most popular treatment options include:

  • Zinc: Zinc has been found to counteract the growth of the herpes simplex virus. You can take a zinc oral supplement or use a topical solution.
  • Lemon balm: It can soothe an inflamed cold sore, providing instant relief. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that applying a lemon balm will reduce the chances of cold sores coming back, and it also reduces redness and swelling.
  • Lysine: Taken as a supplement, or using cream that has the amino acid lysine, can help to reduce the symptoms of fever blisters. If taken regularly, lysine can also reduce the frequency of cold sore outbreaks. These lysine pills a great lip care supplements and help your immune system.

Cold Sores Keep Spreading

How to Prevent Cold Sores

Unfortunately, once the herpes simplex virus is in your system, you have it for life. There is no way to cure cold sores. Each time you experience a flare-up, it’s a matter of treating the symptoms and speeding up the healing process.

Just as there is no way to cure cold sores, there is no way to 100% prevent them either. Regularly using OTC medication can also help to prevent the virus from flaring up. But, it’s still not a fool-proof preventative measure. Here are some hints and tips:

  • Reduce your risk of exposure. If you see someone with a cold sore, try to avoid coming into direct contact with their skin. Cold sores are most contagious after they’ve burst. Avoid kissing anyone with a cold sore at any stage. Also be aware of the food and beverages that you share. The virus can be transmitted easily, so reducing the opportunities for spreading is essential.
  • Practice good hygiene. This may seem like common sense, but frequently washing your hands can be of significant preventative help.
  • Reduce stress. Flare-ups are triggered by stressful situations. It’s not possible to eliminate stress from your life, but find ways to unwind and relax.
  • Avoid too much sun exposure.
  • If you experience frequent outbreaks, ask your doctor about regular antiviral medications.

Best Over the Counter Cold Sore Medicine

Our Pick for the Best Treatment

For a cold sore solution that gets rid of pain quickly, and helps to speed up healing, HERP-B-GONE is one of the best treatment options available (our review here). Because it uses natural ingredients, you can feel safe about using it multiple times a day.

Whether you use the best over-the-counter cold sore medicines, or use a natural treatment option, fighting back against your cold sore can help to reduce the negative symptoms. Not only will you likely feel less irritation, but the blister will go away faster. While you may not be able to prevent future outbreaks completely, take comfort in knowing fast relief is available.

Where To Buy OTC Cold Sore Medicine

You can buy OTC cold sore medicines without prescription at drug stores, grocery stores, discount and department stores, convenience stores, and even some gas stations. You can also purchase them from Amazon. Here are a few more options for you to check out.

Bestseller No. 1
Mederma Cold Sore Discreet Healing Patch, Instantly Hides Fever Blisters, 15 Count
9,539 Reviews
Mederma Cold Sore Discreet Healing Patch, Instantly Hides Fever Blisters, 15 Count
  • FAST HEALING ultra-thin Hydrocolloid Gel provides a moist environment to help: relieve pain, reduce the blistering and prevent scabbing.
Bestseller No. 2
Abreva Cold Sore Treatment Rapid Pain Relief Cream - 1 Tube, 3 Grams
  • One tube of Abreva Cold Sore Rapid Pain Relief, 3 grams
  • Shortens duration of tingling, pain, burning and itching
  • Easy applicable tube form for on-the-go use. When you feel pain and burning from the cold sore or blister, Abreva has you covered with Abreva Rapid Pain Relief gel. It delivers quick, targeted relief from the first application.
SaleBestseller No. 3
Campho Phenique Cold Sore and Fever Blister Treatment for Lips, Maximum Strength Provides Instant Relief, Helps Prevent Infection To Promote Healing, Original Gel Formula, 0.23 Oz
14,331 Reviews
Campho Phenique Cold Sore and Fever Blister Treatment for Lips, Maximum Strength Provides Instant Relief, Helps Prevent Infection To Promote Healing, Original Gel Formula, 0.23 Oz
  • Trusted: A favorite for cold sore and fever blister treatment for lips for over 130 years.
  • Instant Relief: Formulated with camphor and phenol to temporarily inactivate the pain signals at the nerve endings in the skin to provide a local anesthetic (numbing effect) that stops the pain and itch of cold sores and fever blisters on contact.
  • Helps Prevent Infection: Antiseptic properties help prevent infection to promote cold sore healing.
  • Aloe Soothes and Moisturizes: Prevents dryness and cracking as cold sores and fever blisters dry out.
  • Store at room temperature


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  2. 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
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  4. Treister NS, Woo SB. Topical n-docosanol for management of recurrent herpes labialis. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010; 11(5):853-60. doi: 10.1517/14656561003691847.
  5. De Clercq E, Li G. Approved Antiviral Drugs over the Past 50 Years. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2016; 29(3):695-747. doi:10.1128/CMR.00102-15.
  6. Kümel G, Schrader S, Zentgraf H, Brendel M. Therapy of banal HSV lesions: Molecular mechanisms of the antiviral activity of zinc sulfate. Hautarzt. 1991; 42:439–45.

Last update on 2024-07-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API