Cold sores often start to bleed when you catch or pick at the crusty yellow scab. Bleeding, infection, and spreading the virus are all possibilities when you disturb the scab in the final stage of a cold sore. It can sometimes be hard to avoid.

The moment you start to see a tiny red blister, you know that the next couple of weeks aren’t going to be comfortable. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop a cold sore from forming at that point, but there are treatments that speed up the healing process.

Caused by the HSV-1 virus, most of us are susceptible. Once the virus is in your system, it will be there forever. It remains dormant in a nerve, but flare-ups occur for a variety of reasons. Everything from stress to cold weather can cause an ‘outbreak.’

Cold sores go through different stages. They will usually heal on their own after 10 to 14 days without treatment, but most people consider them unsightly enough to want to speed up that process. When the scabbing takes place, cold sores tend to itch. This is good news as it means that they’re healing, but it’s also the time when you start to scratch them.

If a cold sore starts to bleed, it’s likely to be because you didn’t keep the area moist. You’re much more likely to experience bleeding if the cold sore cracks open, but there are ways to prevent the situation from getting any worse.

Stopping a Cold Sore from Bleeding

There are typically five different stages of a cold sore. They include:

  • The first symptoms: Redness, itchiness, and soreness around the mouth
  • Developing infection: Blisters begin to form as red, fluid-filled ‘sacks.’
  • Bursting blisters: The blisters can burst open on day four or five.
  • Scabbing: After the blisters have burst, they will scab over and have a crusty appearance. This is when you’re most at risk of bleeding.
  • Healing/Peeling: After a week of the initial symptoms, the scabs will peel away.

When a cold sore is bleeding, we need to focus on is the scabbing stage. There are two problems people typically run into with this stage; picking at the scab or having it crack open on its own. Both of these issues can cause a cold sore to bleed.

A scab is a sign that a cold sore is recovering. Once a blister bursts open and scabs over, the healing process has begun. Again, fever blisters will heal on their own in time. Unfortunately, this stage can be difficult. Scabs can be itchy and irritating.

Preventing Bleeding from Happening

If you it starts to bleed from a cracked or opened scab, there are a few things you should do:

Try Not to Touch the Scab

The only time that contact should be made is when you’re removing the yellow crust. Or, you can apply a treatment, such as HERP-B-GONE cream. It can be tempting to scratch or pick at the scab. However, that can easily cause bleeding and put you at risk for infection. Touching the scab, and then touching other body parts, can spread the virus.

Make Sure the Area is Kept Clean

Wash the affected area separately from the rest of your face, so you don’t spread the virus. It should be dabbed with a clean cloth. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly. Don’t share your towel with anyone else so that you don’t spread the herpes simplex virus.

Keep the Scab Soft & Moist

Scabs often crack open due to dryness. The best way to fight against this is by using moisturizing products. Over-the-counter creams, like Orajel or Abreva, are popular when it comes to getting rid of cold sores. They lessen the healing time and discomfort.

Although not as effective, just using petroleum jelly can have a similar effect. Daily application to the scab will soften it, and keep the surrounding area lubricated. The more moisture around the lips, the less likely it is for the scab to crack.

Don’t Expose the Area to Extreme Weather

Both cold weather and direct sunlight (even from a tanning machine) put you at a higher risk of developing cold sores. They also have a drying effect on the skin, increasing the probability of a bleeding cold sore.

What's a good bleeding cold sore treatment?

Numb the Infected Area with Ice

Place an ice cube against the scab for a few minutes. When the area is numb, you can apply an over-the-counter product or petroleum jelly. The ice will help to relieve the burning, itching sensation so you can treat the blister.

Treating a Cold Sore at Home

No matter how you care for a cold sore, understand that an ‘untreated’ cold sore will take 10-14 days to heal. In that time, use the above measures to avoid bleeding. Make sure that you keep the area clean, too. The key to a successful treatment is taking action early. Applying an FDA-approved product, such as HERP-B-GONE cream, can reduce the healing time to as little as three days.

Given the variety of treatments that are available, cold sores don’t have to be as big a pain anymore. Once your blister reaches the scabbing stage, do what you can to prevent it from cracking open. Consider putting an invisible Compeed patch over the cold sore to protect it from self-harm. This will prevent you from scratching off the scab, which is usually the cause of the bleeding, infection, and potential scarring.

When you want to stop a cold sore from bleeding, cleanliness and moisturization are vitally important. Drying out a cold sore can speed up the healing process, but it’ll slow things down the process if you remove the scab prematurely. You’ll need to heal again, almost from scratch.