Cold Sore Medication Types, Benefits, & Side Effects

Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. Although there is not yet a medical cure, there are ways to keep it under control. As of now, Abreva is the only cold sore treatment that doctors recommend, and it is available over the counter.

If you are a first-time sufferer, symptoms of an initial HSV-1 outbreak are a fever (hence the name fever blister), sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, headache and muscle aches, and painful gums. These are only associated with the very first outbreak, which is more severe.

Any further outbreaks will show as cold sores, and there are multiple treatment options. There are also some home remedies for cold sores that are worth considering. It goes without saying, talk with your doctor about this condition.

You’ll now find a comprehensive breakdown of the best cold sore medication options, as prescribed by doctors, along with the recommended dosages and most common side effects.

Acyclovir (Zovirax)

This medication is available in the following forms: tablets, capsules, suspension, and even injections. Your doctor will determine the right form to give you, based on the severity of the condition, and your age. It can be given to children, also, and the dosage is based on weight.

Zovirax decreases the severity of the symptoms of the fever blister and also minimizes how long the sore lasts. It helps to heal the sore quicker, and it keeps any new ones from developing. Also, it will lessen the pain and associated itching.

For people with weakened immune systems (from chemotherapy for treating cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, etc.), it will decrease the chance of the virus from spreading to other areas of the body. If it does, it can cause very serious infections.

Directions for Use

This cold sore medicine is supposed to be taken at the very first sign of the outbreak. It is taken orally 2 to 5 times a day, as prescribed by your health care provider. It is important to drink a lot of fluids (preferably water), to lessen any side effects.

Possible Side Effects

Although drinking fluids will lessen the chances of getting them, the most common side effects are a headache, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Famvir (Famciclovir)

This is an antiviral medication, and it works much like Zovirax. Famvir is only available in tablet form, and it is prescribed according to weight.

These cold sore medication tablets work when taken when you experience the tell-tale symptoms of the sore. The tingling, itching sensation. Sometimes notice a tiny red dot, as well.

Directions for Use

It is to be taken 2 -3 times a day, and you should drink plenty of fluids with it. It can be taken with or without food.

Possible Side Effects

While there are some side effects, they are not serious. They can be lessened by the amount of fluid that you take in, also. They can include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and headache. If you experience dizziness, contact your doctor, as this is a more serious side effect.

Valtrex (Valacyclovir)

Finding the best cold sore medication for a child is difficult. This is why you must see a doctor when your child has a cold sore. Health care providers treat children with Valtrex, which is an anti-viral medicine.

Directions for Use

This comes in a tablet form, and the dosage is based on weight. Your pediatrician will closely watch the levels of the medicine.

Possible Side Effects

As with the other prescribed medications, side effects are lessened by drinking plenty of fluids. This is especially important in children, because they may not want to eat or drink because their mouth feels funny.

The side effects from Valtrex may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches.

Denavir (Penciclovir)

Denavir is a different type of medicine because it is only available as a topical cream. No other prescription medicines are available in this form.

It is extremely important to wash your hands before you apply it, so as not to add any other germs to the sore. Also, you must be sure to wash your hands after applying the treatment, so you don’t spread the virus.

Directions for Use

It is to be applied every two hours (except while you are sleeping).

Side Effects

The only known side effects are redness, burning, stinging, or numbness.

Here’s some information on how to apply Denavir and if it works.

Alternatives to Cold Sore Medication

If you are looking for doctor-advised alternative cold sore remedies, they only suggest a few.

Lysine is a very good supplement to take, but ask your doctor what amount you should take. Too much can make you ill, but too little won’t help with anything. They can give you their recommended dosage. You can read about Lysine for cold sores in this post.

Important Facts about HSV- 1

You should definitely see your doctor if your cold sore doesn’t heal within two weeks, or if the symptoms are severe. Also if you experience frequent recurrences.

If you have a weakened immune system, do not try to treat cold sores yourself. They are a virus, and only your doctor will be able to help you alleviate the symptoms.

If you develop an irritation in your eyes, it is a possibility that it can be from the virus. Promptly seek medical attention, as this can cause vision problems, scarring, and if you don’t seek treatment, can even lead to blindness.

Recurrences of Cold Sores

If you get one cold sore, you may experience them for the rest of your life. If you know the triggers, you are one step ahead of the game.

If you catch a viral infection, and it leads to a fever, it can cause an outbreak. Also, for women, hormonal changes such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can cause them.

Exposure to sunlight, stress, and cold winds and fatigue are other causes.

cold sore medication

High-Risk Factors

Because HSV-1 is an infection, if you have other serious medical conditions, you should be closely monitored by your doctor. Some of these conditions are HIV/AIDS, or if you have been severely burnt (this will cause the immune system to weaken).

If you are being treated for cancer with chemotherapy, or if you are taking an anti-rejection drug for an organ transplant, you are at high risk.

Since these factors already have you being treated by a doctor, they will know how to treat the cold sore without your having to worry about becoming worse. Please do not try and treat it yourself.

Potential Complications

While rare, complications from cold sores do happen. It is more frequent in babies and children, simply because they are young. They don’t think about what they do, and they don’t understand what is happening.

Children who suck their thumbs, fingers, or toes can easily spread the infection to these parts of the body. This is somewhat common among babies and infants, and is termed ‘herpes whitlow’. Tell your pediatrician if and when this happens, and he will treat the other infections. This complication is very rare if the child is already on a prescription for the virus.

If you suffer from Eczema, you are also considered at high-risk for complications. This is because your body is trying to fix eczema, and can’t heal the HSV virus fast enough to stop it from spreading.

Although there is no known cold sore cure, a doctor or other health care professional can give you a prescription for a cold sore medication.  The length of time that you will take them will vary, depending on how often you experience the symptoms.