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In most cases, cold sores will heal on their own without any treatment. However, there are ways to help manage symptoms, decrease the length of time with an outbreak, and prevent future outbreaks.

Although treatment can help relieve or reduce outbreaks of cold sores, the virus cannot permanently be cured. The herpes simplex virus will persist in the nerve tissue once it is in your body.

Treatment options include the following:

Lifestyle changesMedicationsAlternative and complementary therapies

There are no surgical options for the treatment of cold sores.

Revision Information

  • Herpes: Treatment. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/herpes/treatment.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed March 20, 2013.

  • Herpes labialis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 27, 2011. Accessed March 20, 2013.

  • Herpes simplex. DermNet NZ website. Available at: http://dermnetnz.org/viral/herpes-simplex.html. Updated February 6, 2013. Accessed March 20, 2013.

  • Kuehl B. Cold sores: how to prevent and treat them. Skin Care Guide.ca website. Available at: http://www.skincareguide.ca/articles/herpes/to%5Fprevent%5Fcold%5Fsores.html. Accessed March 20, 2013.