Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and as such, you can control them with prescription medication. These come in two different forms: topical creams and antiviral tablets. Depending on your habits, lifestyle, and preferences, either one or both may work better for you. The guide below explores how each works, well-known brands for each, and which you should buy and why.
Cold sore creams are ‘topical’ creams—in other words, you apply them directly to the area in question. This helps the medication find the sore more quickly than it would through you taking a tablet. There are a number of different creams with different active ingredients. Some are more effective than others. Creams often speed up recovery, or prevent cold sore from spreading.
Creams are an excellent choice for a number of reasons.
That being said, creams aren’t perfect. They can be messy, and you get it on your fingers and hands when you apply them. It’s also quite easy to rub the cream away if you aren’t careful. This is especially the case if you’re eating. And if your cold sore is on your lips, you may taste the cream—it’s not pleasant. All in all, you have to balance these pros and cons together to figure out what matters most to you.
Cold sore pills are an effective way to manage outbreaks on a consistent, long-term basis. You take them like any other pill, with food and water. They contain the same medications that creams contain. However, since the medication is absorbed through the gut, it takes longer for your body to get it to the affected area. Even so, they can be effective. They’re definitely worthy of consideration compared to creams.
Pills are an excellent choice for a number of reasons, including:
That being said, there are a few drawbacks to taking pills, too. One is that you have to schedule them correctly. If there’s too much of a gap between taking one and taking another, they’re nowhere near as effective. That’s because the virus has time to replicate in the absence of medication. While the same applies to creams, it’s easier to use cream than take tablets. There’s also the fact that you have to remember to drink water and eat food before you take your tablet, too.
There are three main cold sore prescription creams/pills available today (if you’d like to learn about Over The Counter pills and creams for cold sores please see this page).
Aciclovir, penciclovir, and valaciclovir are the best-known herpes medications available today. Other medications include famciclovir and ganciclovir. Each of these medications is effective, and none offer any common side effects. In around 1% of cases, patients experience nausea and diarrhea.
On the balance of the pros and cons above, neither creams nor tablets are a clear ‘winner’. Both can be effective, so long as you use them correctly. However, there are definitely people who would prefer one over the other. Consider the following points:
Take a look at the list of creams and tablets above to see if you recognize any of them. A friend or colleague may have told you about them before, in which case you could ask your doctor for them on their recommendation. If not, take a look at the blog posts below. There’s plenty more information on everything from cold sore creams and tablets to devices. Click the links below to find out more.
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