My Embarrassing Enemy: Cold Sores (and how to stop them!)

Written by Jen Sill

That’s my actual mouth up there.


I’ve been getting cold sores since I was really little.  I remember one year in high school or middle school (when some parents let their kids stay home from school with a zit.  Um, not my mom) I had a cold sore on my top AND bottom lip at the same time.

People called me “Ducky.”  It was an impressionable time when I went home and cried.


They always come when I least want them around.  But, I have found a remedy that I LOVE.

Here’s the miracle cure: 


They in no way pay me for this little advertisement, I’m just a really big fan.  It is seriously the best remedy I have found in my decades of being prone to the nasty little sores.  I always have one in my purse, make up bag, medicine cabinet and car because I never want to feel one coming on without the ability to immediately slather on the Abreva.

The last time I bought it, the Walgreens cashier told me a little known fact about it.  This product is the most stolen of any items in Walgreens (followed by condoms).  So, I guess there are several of us out there fighting this battle. Some a little less honest than others.

Here’s a few more tips:  

1. Cover it.

Even if you don’t have or don’t believe in the magic of the above product, you should cover your cold sore.  Use Petroleum Jelly, Blistex, Aquaphor or something like that.  The more moist you can keep it, the less painful it will be.

2. Change Your Tooth Brush.

Yup. The little buggers are very contagious.  Take every precaution or you’ll be fighting one after another after another after another.

3. Do NOT touch it.  And for goodness sake, do not peel it.

Resist the temptation.  Popping, peeling, poking it will only anger it and make it declare war on your lips and your happiness.

4. Licorice

Say what?  I don’t really like the stuff, but studies show that some acid in licorice may help stop the cold sore virus.  So, if you like it – try it!  But be sure you have the ‘real’ stuff.  Most US licorice is candy not actually made from licorice powder.

5. Milk

Soak your little enemy in milk to relieve the pain.


Some say vitamins can help, but my doctor says that’s not really true.  My one-year-old son has gotten some on his back.  I’m sad that he’ll be another soldier in the war against this Cold Sore enemy.

It might be time to buy the Abreva by the case.

About the author

Jen Sill

For nearly 15 years Jennifer spent her time clawing her way up the chain as a television producer and newsroom manager. She’s helped create and produce newscasts and talkshows. Just as she was realizing some of her professional goals, she decided to give it all up for a family. Although Jennifer has lived in Miami and L.A., she has always called Nebraska home. She always knew she wanted to raise her children in the Midwest.
Jennifer is now trying to find her way in a new world. She may be frenzied and frazzled sometimes, but she would not give up being a mom to her almost four year old and her almost two year old for anything.


  • Great tips, Jen! I have never had a cold sore – but canker sores? Ugh. Always. And I always get them when I’m stressed, tired – etc. So yes – I have one now. UGH!!! I had a horrible one on my wedding day, too! I suppose I can count my blessings though – they hurt but no one can see them!

    • Ha! Thanks, Babe!
      I actually get cold sores if I wear lipstick. I can only wear lip gloss. Very strange. Lip pencils always make me break out also.
      AND… I just got one in my NOSE of all places. OUCH!

  • Years ago a pharmacist friend advised me to take L-Lysine daily and increase the dose if I feel a cold sore coming on. It is an amino acid and found in the vitamin/supplement section. Per his suggestion and my Dr. agrees, I take 500 mg daily (1 tablet). If I feel that “twinge” of a cold sore coming on, I begin the 3000 mg daily dosing until it’s gone (3-1000 mg tablets taken morning, noon and night). Hoping I don’t jinx myself with this next statement…my bouts with cold sores are now a year apart instead of a few months. My triggers are sleep deprivation and extreme stress (ie big events). If I find myself with the triggers I will take extra L-Lysine which seems to stave off an attack. A year ago, after not having a cold sore for a long time, I thought maybe I could quit this regiman so I slowed down, almost stopping. It didn’t work, and I ended up with a large cold sore, so I’m back to the above dosing and my Dr. said I’d have to stick with it. For me, this is probably 95% effective prevention. But when I do get one, it’s small, lasts a shorter amount of time and I use Abreva. Like you, I carry it everywhere, along with a few L-Lysine tablets.

    • Carol,
      That is so interesting! My grandma swears by L-Lysine. But I asked my doc and she said it doesn’t work. But, I’d venture to guess she might also say Abreva doesn’t work. I’m going to have to buy some now.

  • I get one every now and then, but when I was working at a Chiropractic Office a few years ago a patient noticed I had one and suggested Zilactin! She said if you can start it right away it will dry them up before they get going. It has worked well for me. I have not had one for a couple of years now, I do think stress really does bring them out!

  • Jen, I can imagine your mom saying, “You’re not staying home just because you have a cold sore!” In the picture of the three of you, I can NOT tell you have a cold sore! I know you’re more conscious of it than anyone else around! Your advice sounds good for those suffering!

    • lol! You’re right, Mary. My mom didn’t even let a fever keep us from school sometimes. But the work ethic worked. I rarely miss days at work and ‘sanity’ days are out of the question. I was shocked when I learned some of my friends took them. Thank you for saying you can’t see it!! I think the issues we have in high school stick with us our whole lives. So funny since those 4 years are such a short time in the grand scheme!

      • You say your child gets them on his “back”??? A cold sore on his back? I’m curious about that because my 3 yr old grandson gets little sores and we don’t know what they are. He has very sensitive skin.

  • L-Lysine really does work. I take it every day and the frequency of my cold sores has GREATLY decreased. Also, go to a dermatologist and have them give you a prescription of 1 gram tablets of Acyclovir. It is really for the “other” kind of herpes, but it is a lifesaver for cold sores. As soon as you feel it coming on, take two 1 gram pills and then 2 more 12 hours later. It shortens the life of the cold sore by days and sometimes it just goes away before it’s even full blown. It is worth the embarrassment of having to buy it at the pharmacy! 🙂

  • Erin – It won’t let me reply again. I have not started taking Acyclovir, yet. But I totally plan to. I guess it got put on my back burner, but I’ll regret that when I have another outbreak.

  • A girl I work with had an appointment with an oral surgeon while she had a cold sore and he had a laser that he put on it and she hasn’t had one since. And that was a couple of years ago and she has had a child since then. If that’s not stressful, I don’t know what is!!

  • I swear by L-Lysine… it is inexpensive & has always shortened the duration/prevented mine if I started taking it at the first “twinge”

  • My daughter and I take a prescription from our Dr. Stress and long expose to the sun always makes us get one. Got them a lot when younger, but now not so much. Mine don’t just stay on my lip, it does down under my lip in the chin area.