Will Cortisone Injections Reduce Cold Sore Pain & Swelling?

  • Medically reviewed by Emina Ribic (MD) on November 18, 2018. Written by Linda White (MD).

Diluted cortisone (Corticosteroids) can provide fast-acting relief from localized pain, redness, and inflammation. You will ease levels of discomfort because you are reducing the inflammation. Remember that corticosteroids cannot be used alone, but in combination with antiviral remedy.[1]

A medical professional will administer a cortisone injection into a cold sore. This will reduce the amount of swelling. It will also shorten the time that it takes for the area to heal.

Cortisone is a proven treatment. It can produce minor side effects, such as initial discomfort due to getting an injection in a tender area. But, it is beneficial to those who are experiencing intolerable levels of pain. This is common during a primary cold sore infection.

It shouldn’t be your go-to-treatment. Corticosteroids should only be administered during the most severe outbreaks. Explore proven over-the-counter cold sore medicines as they’re cheaper and will make life more tolerable.

Let’s explore the topic of cortisone and learn how it can make life easier for you.

Can Cortisone Ease Cold Sore Pain?

Cortisone can serve as the ideal cold sore healer for those who are in search of fast relief. By injecting diluted cortisone directly into the cold sore, inflammation can be reduced quite rapidly.

While many alternative treatments are problematic, to say the least, cortisone is a known quantity. It has been available on the commercial market as a pain reliever and inflammation reducer for almost 70 years. Classified as a steroid hormone, cortisone being injected into various joints of the body has become common practice.[2] It is commonly used in primary joints such as the elbows, knees, and shoulders.

The general concept is the same as it related to cortisone as a cold sore treatment. Because swelling and inflammation is the hallmark of a fever blister, cortisone can treat the area.

Additionally, cortisone can also reduce the lifespan of a fever blister. Complete healing in less than 72 hours is certainly not out of the question. For best results, you are encouraged to visit your physician as soon as you begin to notice the symptoms.

Although quite a more aggressive approach compared to an OTC cold sore cream, injections of diluted cortisone is a quality treatment.

To summarize:

  • Diluted cortisone injections, while an alternative healer, is a proven treatment for serious outbreaks. Cortisone has been a staple of the medical community for decades. It is important to take them with antiviral treatment, as they alone might weaken immunity system and make the outbreak worse.
  • Cortisone can reduce the inflammation associated with cold sores while also reducing its lifecycle.
  • For best results, visit your physician as soon as you become symptomatic. The quicker the application, the sooner the cold sore will heal.

What are the Side Effects of Cortisone Shots?

Although side effects from cortisone injections can occur, they are typically minor. Most complaints are often associated with discomfort, slight pain, and moderate swelling.

Cortisone injections are not recommended for those who dislike or have a phobia of needles. If you have a general fear of any injection, this treatment is not for you. While this is not necessarily a side effect, it is an advanced warning.

Noted below are some additional cortisone complications:

  • Shrinking and lightening of the skin. This side effect can potentially introduce bacteria into the area as well as bleeding.
  • Severe inflammation at the injection site. While a bit of swelling is natural, aggressive swelling is a side effect of concern that must be monitored. This particular symptom could be the result of an allergic reaction.
  • Occurring in roughly 40% of all patients, facial flushing, at least for a brief time is a side effect. While not deemed as serious, this type of complication can occur. Having a cortisone injection in the face (lip/mouth area) can potentially increase this existing percentage.
  • Those who suffer from diabetes can experience elevated blood sugar due to cortisone. Cold sore sufferers with existing infections (any part of the body) can suffer immune system complications. Because cortisone can suppress the body’s ability to fight infection, an injection can cause a period of struggle. The physician will avoid injecting cortisone into someone who is already battling an active infection.

Are Cortisone Injections Expensive?

Shots can be a bit pricey, and those prices can obviously vary. So much of the overall cost of cortisone injections, or lack thereof, depends on insurance coverage. Prices can range from $50 to $300 depending on your situation.

If cortisone treatment is your chosen path, it is important to talk to your doctor as well as your insurance provider. Knowing if this type of procedure is covered by your insurance can be critical. It is also important to know how many injections you can have under your coverage plan.

While the majority of cold sore treatments, traditional and alternative, are straight-forward, cortisone is different. This is the rare case where medical and insurance professionals have to enter the conversation.

Do your research and have a consultation with your physician beforehand. This will not only prepare you for the physical aspect but financial as well. Consultations and a few phone calls can enable you to tie up any loose ends as it relates to insurance matters.

Are Cortisone Injections Better Than OTC Medications?

It truly comes down to personal preference. While OTC medications are easier regarding application and outside hurdles (doctor, insurance, etc.), cortisone can provide fast relief. The answer to this question depends on what you feel is best for you. Remember that cortisone is not used as an antiviral agent, so if you want to weaken the virus, OTC options are better for you.

Both cortisone and OTC medications will work. Although OTC creams and light devices for cold sores can fail some HSV-1 sufferers, this is quite rare. If the instructions are followed carefully, then relief should come within a matter of days. Perhaps mere hours in some cases.

Cortisone injections must be administered by a medical professional, typically your physician. This is a positive, simply because someone with considerable knowledge will be dealing with you first-hand. However, OTC methods, many FDA approved, are very dependable as well. They are also quicker and require less hassle.

Will Cortisone cream reduce cold sore discomfort?

We encourage you to weigh your options and understand that you will likely not go wrong with either choice.

To summarize:

  • Cortisone injections and OTC medications are essentially A and A1. It comes down to personal preference. Both treatment plans can provide quick relief with minimal side effects.
  • The main difference between cortisone and OTC is time and hassle. While this is not a negative statement on the healing strength of cortisone, some hoops have to jump through with this procedure. Cold sore treatments of this nature require a medical professional and insurance approval. If quick and easy is the better route for you, then an OTC medication should be your selection.

Can You Put Cortisone Cream on Cold Sores?

Although cortisone cream, more notably hydrocortisone cream, will have no positive impact on cold sores, acyclovir-hydrocortisone cream will.

Let’s take a close look at each medication, starting with hydrocortisone.

  • Used as a topical cream, hydrocortisone is commonly used to treat minor skin irritations. These issues can include insect bites, rash, and poison ivy. Hydrocortisone is regarded as a mild corticosteroid. A bitten lip will almost always heal on its own.
  • Acyclovir is a potent antiviral medication that can halt the formation and growth of a virus. While acyclovir lacks the ability to cure an infection for good, it can definitely quell symptoms.

Acyclovir-hydrocortisone cream is the answer. Serving to combine the potency of each medication, this cream can heal cold sores fast.[3] Acting to eliminate inflammation while also stopping the growth of the virus, the cream is beneficial in many ways.

Will Cortisone relieve cold sore pain?

To recap:

  • Acyclovir-hydrocortisone is a proven medication that can heal cold sores. In fact, many people use this topical cream to treat HSV-1.
  • It can halt the growth of the virus while reducing inflammation and relieving both itching and burning symptoms.
  • Regarding application, acyclovir-hydrocortisone can be applied to the problem area 5 times per day, every 3-4 hours, over the course of 5 days. You are encouraged not to bathe or wash the area for 30 minutes following the application process.

Are Corticosteroids the Right Treatment for Cold Sores?

While many alternative cold sore methods are often problematic and blatantly ill-advised, cortisone will help in many ways.

Available in injection form as well as cream, cortisone can provide fast cold sore healing that every HSV-1 sufferer craves.

If you decide to proceed with this treatment, either injection or cream, it is important to know if you can tolerate cortisone. Make sure that you are up to date when it comes to your physical health. This is critical if you have an existing infection or health condition.

While cortisone is certainly not meant for everyone, it is a proven healer. It could be a good option for people who are experiencing a primary cold sore infection or severe recurrent infections.

References

  1. Arain N, Paravastu SC, Arain MA. Effectiveness of topical corticosteroids in addition to antiviral therapy in the management of recurrent herpes labialis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2015;15:82. doi:10.1186/s12879-015-0824-0.
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/steroid-injections/
  3. ROSA, MARIA INÊS DA, SOUZA, SUÉLI L., FARIAS, BRUNA F. DE, PIRES, PATRÍCIA D.S., DONDOSSOLA, EDUARDO R., & REIS, MARIA EDUARDA F. DOS. Efficacy of Topical 5% Acyclovir-1% Hydrocortisone Cream (ME-609) for Treatment of Herpes Labialis: a systematic review. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 2015;87(2, Suppl.), 1415-1420. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0001-3765201520140701

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