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There is a range of effective over the counter products available including Abreva, Betadine, Lemon Balm and Zovirax.

Cold sores and other herpes symptoms are caused by a virus so be on the look out for active ingredients that are specifically antiviral such as Acyclovir, also the herbs Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Tea Tree oil.

Some creams and ointments have antiseptic properties like Abreva and the herb Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Although these do not usually act directly on the virus itself, they can help by warding off the infection that is caused by the virus and soothing the redness and inflammation.

Creams and ointments are usually indicated for facial herpes infections (cold sores or fever blisters), so check with your Doctor before trying them on a genital infection.

Here we briefly discuss some of the topical treatment options that are available:


Key Benefit: FDA approved and available over-the-counter.

How Abreva works:

The active ingredient in Abreva is Docosanol 10%, also known as behenyl alcohol. This is a type of alcohol traditionally used as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener in cosmetics and supplements.

Abreva has been shown in clinical study to shorten the healing time of cold sores. When Abreva is applied to cold sores it helps to soothe any irritation and strengthens the cell membranes to prevent the infection becoming worse.


Apply 5 times a day for up to 10 days.

More Information:

Betadine Cold Sore Paint

Key Benefit: Helpful for preventing secondary infections and cleansing wounds.

How Betadine works:

The active ingredient in Betadine is Povidone-Iodine, long renowned for antiseptic and wound cleansing properties.

Antiseptic in nature, this formula may help to sterilize and control a cold sore infection when applied to the blister.

The active ingredient may also help relieve the pain and burning.


Apply liberally to the affected area at least 4 times a day.

Neosporin Ointment

Key Benefit: May help to clear cold sore “scabs” more quickly.

How Neosporin works:

The active ingredients in Neosporin ointments are primarily antibiotics.

Hate that ugly cold sore scab? …Agghh so do we! Well although Neosporin ointment is usually recommended for healing minor cuts and infections, we found it can sometimes help get the scab stage annoying moving a little quicker if applied toward the end of an outbreak.


Apply a small amount 1 to 3 times daily.

Zovirax or Acyclovir Cream

Key Benefit: Acyclovir cream is antiviral and the standard product in most drugstores.

How Zovirax works:

The active ingredient in Zovirax cream is Acyclovir 5%.

Zovirax is specifically antiviral and targets the cells that are affected by the Herpes simplex virus, it does this by limiting their ability to replicate and therefore helping to stop the infection sooner than it would without treatment.

By doing this Zovirax can help to shorten the duration of the symptoms, and may also help with the pain as well. It is recommended by Doctors all over the world and is usually prescribed for cold sores in its cream form. It is also available in tablets, which is generally more effective.


Apply 5 times per day (or about every 4 hours) for 5 days

Where to Now?

Ask questions and get support right now in the Herpes Support Forum

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