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What Causes Cold Sores To Flare Up: Best At-Home Treatments


Yes, they are gross, ghastly, and extremely painful. 

Wondering what we’re talking about? 

It’s none other than those pimple-like looking painful bumps on the sides of your mouth that might flare up on regular occasions leading to extreme discomfort and suffering. 

These common flare-ups are known as cold sores and can affect you at any point in time. These unwelcome blisters can strike anytime and become difficult to deal with, especially if you aren’t aware of what caused them in the first place. 

If you’re no stranger to these painful and unsightly sores, then continue reading to understand all that causes cold sores and how to get them gone for good. 

Table of Contents:

  • What’s A Cold Sore
  • Causes Of Cold Sores
  • Best At-Home Treatments For Cold Sores

What’s A Cold Sore

Cold sores are nothing but contagious oral ulcers caused by the herpes simplex virus. Shilpi Agarwal, board-certified family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine physician in Washington, D.C, explains that the virus is mostly transmitted by close contact with skin or saliva. 

cold sores

Quite similar to the chickenpox virus, the HSV virus lives in nerves with branches to the skin. 

There are two broad strains of HSV:

HSV 1 infects the mucous membranes near the mouth, lips, nose, and face, while HSV 2 infects near the genital organs. 

Causes Of Cold Sores

The cold sores can be transmitted amongst family members or to partners through kissing, sharing personal items, food, or via oral sex. 

After the initial flare-up, the virus reaches a collection of nerve cells called ganglion and resides in a dormant position. 

Several factors might be responsible for recurrence or trigger of cold sores; some of these are:

  • Hormonal changes due to puberty, menopause, or pregnancy
  • Fever or flu
  • Exposure to UV rays of the sun or harsh weather conditions
  • Immune system changes
  • Stress
  • Fatigue 

As per WHO, 67% of the population below the age of 50 years has HSV 1. Also, some people are more prone than others to recurrent cold sores. This includes the ones with a weakened immune system, those suffering from HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, or those who are organ recipients. 

Eczema and psoriasis also increase the risk of recurring cold sores. 

Best At-Home Treatments For Cold Sores

Though cold sores generally clear up on their own within a few weeks, some safe and harmless home treatments can trigger the healing process and make it much quicker. 

Here are some of the most effective ones:

Regularly apply lemon balm

Lemon balm, also known as Mellisa Officinalis enriched with antiviral properties, works well to reduce swelling and redness caused by cold sores, flare-ups, and potential infections. You can apply the effective ingredient in any form, be it as a leaf, or a capsule, or oil. 

lip balm

Apple cider vinegar

ACV is one rich ingredient infused with antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that can actively help fight the infection caused by cold sores and soothe the irritation as well. Apply the potent ingredient in the diluted form once or twice a day.

Essential oils

These effective herbal healing treatments are the most holistic and natural ways of addressing several concerns ranging from physical ailments to psychological stress. Several essential oils are quite effective in dealing with cold sores and the symptoms caused by them. 

Peppermint essential oil is one such energy-boosting oil that has been found to relieve the pain and redness of cold sores. 

The aromatic tea tree essential oil also shows promising benefits of fighting against the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores. Apart from these two, several other essential oils have also been proven to miraculously alleviate symptoms of cold sores. 

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One essential factor regarding essential oils is that since these are powerful, it’s always advised to apply them in diluted form. An effective carrier oil can be used for the purpose of dilution to ensure a quick healing process.  

Lysine supplements

Lysine is an essential amino acid that plays a significant role in the functioning of your immune system and muscle growth.  Studies have observed that those consuming lysine supplements are less likely to experience recurring cold sores. Also, as per a study published in Alternative Medicine Review in 2005, daily application of lysine ointment healed cold sores in 40% of people by day 3 and 87% of people by day 6. 

Opt for sunscreen

Exposure to the harsh UV rays of the sun might be a potential factor causing cold sores. A broad-spectrum sunscreen infused with at least SPF 30 is a safe bet against the harm caused by the sunlight. Apply sunscreen to your face and a lip balm infused with sunscreen to prevent any further damage. 

Vitamin E

The enriching antioxidant is known for its skin healing and repairing properties. Soothe your cold sores and heal them in no time by either applying the vitamin topically or by ingesting it through a well-balanced diet containing green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. 

Kanuka honey

This soothing honey obtained from the manuka tree has been observed to work quite well against cold sores. As per a study published in the journal BMJ Open, honey has been and effective against the herpes simplex virus. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Why do some people get cold sores while others don’t?

While some people have a genetic predisposition to frequent and severe cold sores, others might not be affected by this outbreak. 

How do you dry out a cold sore overnight?

Cold compress and petroleum jelly are quick ways to dry out a cold sore overnight. 

How do I stop a cold sore from forming?

An antiviral therapy medication introduced after consultation with your physician is one way of stopping cold sores from constantly forming.


Geeting painful red bumps anywhere up close in the vicinity of your mouth is infuriating, but timely identifying if they’re cold sores and looking for easy treatments to get rid of the bumps can help you with that excruciating pain and discomfort. 

Hopefully, these recommended at-home treatments can prove to be effective for you and trigger your healing process.

Get back that wonderful feeling of plump and super soft lips free of cold sores with apt at-home treatments.


Geetika Kapoor

Deeply passionate about writing, I’m a freelancer and have been working on several writing projects for several domains across the globe since last three years. I love reviewing different products ranging from skin care products, perfumes, body lotions, feminine products, hygiene items and several others. An English teacher by profession, I love interacting with kids and discovering different personalities as well. When I’m not writing I spend most of time reading novels, listening to songs, solving tricky puzzles and travelling around the world to my favourite destinations. Collen Hoover and Nicholas Sparks are my all time favourite authors. Their writing leaves a deep impact and stays with me for long.

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