How to Stop a Cold Sore Throbbing Pain

  • Medically reviewed by Emina Ribic (MD) on October 1, 2018. Written by Linda White (MD).

The discomfort that arises from a severe cold sore outbreak can be too much to handle. Fortunately, there are ways to numb the pain, reduce the throbbing sensations, and heal significantly faster. We’re going to look at the things you can do (at home) that will make a significant difference.

You need to be proactive as soon as you identify the first signs of a cold sore! This is often characterized by a tingling sensation on the lip. A pulsating (or throbbing) occurs when the virus is activated. Your immune system attacks the virus (HSV-1), so the blood rushes to the skin lesion as a means of defense.

We will explain why fever blisters are often so painful. You will also find out how to heal cold sores and numb the pain that you’re experiencing fast. You don’t need to wait for up to two weeks to look and feel better.

Why Are Some Cold Sore Outbreaks So Painful?

The reason outbreaks are painful is connected to your immune health. Primarily your general immunity to the herpes simplex virus, the virus that is responsible for cold sores.

Immune system tolerance is the key. Although this is not always true for everyone, many people find their primary cold sore outbreak to be the worst. Not only when it comes to blister pain, but also side effects and symptoms.

The blister cluster will be bigger, the headaches more severe, and your fever higher. This is due to the virus attacking your body for the first time. Because your body has never been faced with the challenge of HSV-1, it has no plan of action.

Similar to many things in day-to-day life, you are more inclined to modify your approach if you experience something regularly. Your immune system is the same way. This is why most cold sore recurrences may not be as painful. In fact, it is not uncommon for some people to only have blisters and nothing further. This is a byproduct of a stronger, better adapted immune system.

To summarize:

  • Initial outbreaks are often intense and painful because your body has no “record” of HSV-1. That is why first time that you get them is almost always the most uncomfortable. This applies to painful blisters and the other symptoms. Headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, etc. are all commonplace.
  • While recurring outbreaks can be extremely painful, few compare to the first time you were affected. Your body will have built up a certain level of immunity to the virus.[1]

Which OTC Medications Stop Cold Sore Pain Fast?

The best way to stop cold sore pain fast and heal your fever blister is a proven OTC cold sore medication. Products such as Abreva, Carmex, HERP-B-GONE, and Orajel, just to name a few, can grant you fast relief.

It is estimated that roughly 50-80% of the general population carries HSV-1. While that statistic is somewhat alarming, the good news is the flourishing treatment market. Because so many people deal with this virus, proven remedies are at an all-time high.

This is why it is always wise to avoid harsh and crude ‘alternative’ methods. This is especially true when your fever blister can be healed in a matter of days with HERP-B-GONE cream.

Once you begin to experience the warning signs, take action immediately. Being proactive is the key. The sooner you apply the treatment, the quicker your pain will diminish, and your blister will heal.

Being able to identify the stages of a cold sore is essential. If you get treatment during the prodromal stage, which is the first sign of trouble, the better you will be in the long-term.

To recap:

  • The best way to stop the pain from a cold sore is to be proactive when your first symptom arises. Many products are FDA approved and can provide virtually instant pain relief.
  • Many OTC treatments can heal your fever blister within a matter of days.[2] Avoid potentially harmful alternative remedies.

How Do I Quickly Numb Fever Blister Pain?

While an OTC treatment will minimize the discomfort, sometimes the pain is overwhelming. In fact, getting rid of the pain usually trumps actual healing when blisters are severe. It is during this time when a numbing agent can be introduced.

While most numbing selections will not provide healing, they can provide some relief. The use of a cold compress or ice can numb your sore. Oral medication such as Ibuprofen can also help to calm inflammation thus reducing pain.

It is not uncommon, especially during a primary outbreak, for a cold sore cluster to throb. This can create intense aching and swollen lymph nodes. While healing the blister is the ultimate goal, reducing the pain is paramount when you are in extreme discomfort.

To summarize:

  • While OTC creams and gels will reduce cold sore pain, fever blister discomfort can often become too intense for some. This is where immediate numbing agents can enter the fold.
  • Selections such as ice, a cold compress, and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful.
  • If the pain is too much for you to handle, your doctor can give you a cortisone injection.

Why Do Some Cold Sores Pulsate?

Are you able to feel a pulse within your cold sore? If so, this feeling is quite typical during primary and severe fever blister outbreaks.

You need to look no further than the blood vessels that surround your lips. Increased blood flow to your lips is why your lips are naturally sensitive to minor cuts and abrasions. It does not take much for your lips to bleed. This can be problematic when you get a cold sore. As blood rushes to the area of trauma (the blister), a pulsation will become increasingly noticeable.

Blood flows to the rhythm of your heartbeat. The increased blood flow to a centralized location makes the pulsation more prominent. Cold sores occur due to the herpes simplex virus. Therefore blood will naturally rush to the area to aid in the natural healing process.

How to stop cold sore pain fast

The best course of action is immediate blister treatment and a numbing agent. Outside of that, there is not much you can do other than be patient. Just know that any throbbing or pulsating simply lets you know that your body is working hard to heal your blister naturally.

To recap:

  • Throbbing and pulsating at the location of a cold sore is due to increased blood flow to the area. Because blood flows to the rhythm of your natural heartbeat, the pulsation is noticeable when a rush of blood enters the problem area.
  • Your lips are naturally sensitive. The ability to “touch” with your lips is critical. However, that sensitivity can be a source of annoyance and pain during a fever blister outbreak. Attempting to numb the area can provide relief from the throbbing and pulsating sensation.

What Are the Best Home Remedies for Cold Sores?

Far too many alternative treatments are dangerous. Using objects to pick and pull at your sore is not wise. Removal of a blister in this fashion can result in bleeding, infection, and long-term skin damage (scarring).

You can find some home remedies for cold sores that work fast on this page.

Selections that involve essential oils, a cold compress and ice are quite safe. Some of these choices can serve as quality numbing agents while essential oils can heal your sores[3][4]. Peppermint oil and tea tree oil are just two of the many essential oils that have been used for generations.

To summarize:

  • When choosing a home remedy, safety is vital. Needles, bleach, knives, tweezers, etc. should never be used on a cold sore. These practices are dangerous and can result in long-term skin/health issues.
  • Apply essential oils to your sore for healing and ice to numb any pain if you want to use a natural treatment.

The main takeaway is that you need to be proactive and select the right treatment. At the first sign of trouble (the prodromal/tingling stage), you should be prepared to take action. So many fever blister complications can be prevented. By applying Abreva cream (or another proven product) to the problem area, you can heal these skin lesions in no time.

If you are an HSV-1 carrier, there is no foolproof way to prevent an outbreak. However, some tools will heal your blisters in a safe and timely fashion. The sooner that you take action, the less severe the symptoms (pain and throbbing) that you’ll typically experience.

References

  1. Dreno B, Malkin JE, Saiag P. Understanding recurrent herpes labialis management and impact on patients’ quality of life: The HERPESCOPE study. Eur J Dermatol. 2013;23:491–499.
  2. Sarnoff DS. Treatment of recurrent herpes labialis. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014;13(9):1016-1018.
  3. Orchard A, van Vuuren S. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2017;2017:4517971. doi:10.1155/2017/4517971.
  4. Civitelli L., Panella S., Marcocci M. E., et al. In vitro inhibition of herpes simplex virus type 1 replication by Mentha suaveolens essential oil and its main component piperitenone oxide. Phytomedicine. 2014;21(6):857–865. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.01.013.

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