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What are the Different Types of Oral Herpes Treatment?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Oral herpes is contagious a form of the herpes simplex virus that causes blisters on or near the lips. Commonly known as a cold sore, an outbreak of oral herpes is typically painful or itchy as small blisters emerge, ooze, and crust over. Cold sores typically appear during or immediately after a person is sick, when his or her immune system is not strong enough to fight off the always-present herpes virus. Most outbreaks of oral herpes last for about two weeks without treatment, though people can generally relieve pain and shorten healing time by keeping the area clean, applying over-the-counter topical ointments, and taking pain relievers. Anyone who experiences frequent outbreaks should seek the guidance of a doctor, who can prescribe a more potent form of oral herpes treatment.

Cleaning the mouth with mild soap and water is an effective oral herpes treatment that can be accomplished at home. Keeping open sores clean ensures that they do not become infected, which could significantly lengthen the time it takes to heal. It is also important to avoid touching a sore when not cleaning it, as fingers can introduce bacteria as well as potentially spread the herpes virus to other body parts or individuals.

In addition to washing cold sores, frequent applications of ice or cold packs can help numb the pain and relieve itching and burning sensations. If a person plans on being outside in the sun or wind, protective lip balm is important to ensure that blisters do not break open and get worse. Over-the-counter oral pain medications like ibuprofen can provide additional relief.

Topical ointments are another popular form of oral herpes treatment. Over-the-counter ointments are available at most pharmacies and supermarkets, and can be used several times a day on a cold sore. Most topical creams contain a solution of either benzocaine or lidocaine that work to numb the cold sore and soothe the irritation caused by drying and cracking blisters. While over-the-counter medications are effective at treating pain and discomfort, they generally do not significantly speed up healing time unless taken at the very first signs of an outbreak.

Doctors can prescribe high-strength oral herpes treatment when outbreaks are very frequent or especially painful. Prescription topical ointments, which contain stronger concentrations than commercial creams, can provide significant relief from burning and itching and actually shorten healing time by at least one day. In addition, oral antiviral medications are prescribed as a long-term oral herpes treatment for some people.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Oct 22, 2013

@burcidi-- Antivirals are helpful but oral herpes simplex treatment is also possible with natural remedies. For example, lysine and colloidal silver can both be used to treat oral herpes.

Lysine or l-lysine is an amino acid that improves the immune system. It's available as a supplement at pharmacies. I take it whenever I feel a cold sore coming on or during winter months because that's when I usually get cold sores. It can prevent blisters and also help them heal faster.

The same is true for colloidal silver which has antibacterial properties. Colloidal silver improves health and fights infections.

Gargling with salt water and using medicated lip balm is helpful as well.

By burcidi — On Oct 21, 2013

@donasmrs-- Yes, it's possible. It can happen if someone performs oral sex on another who has genital herpes (HSV-2). The person doesn't even need to have an active outbreak.

The opposite is also possible, oral herpes from HSV-1 can spread to the genital area through oral sex.

Both of these are rare though and it doesn't make much of a difference in terms of treatment. There is no cure and taking antivirals and keeping the immune system strong are the only treatments.

By donasmrs — On Oct 21, 2013

Is it possible to get cold sores or oral herpes from the genital herpes virus?

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