Do Cold Sores Mean You Have an STD? How to Kill Cold Sores Naturally

Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022
Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD
Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD

Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which usually affects the lips and typically is not transmitted by sexual contact. Though less common, cold sores may be caused by another type of herpes simplex virus called HSV-2. This virus usually causes herpes genitalis, which is an STD in the genital area.

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be passed on by saliva, body secretions, or oral sex. 

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores on the lip
Cold sores may be triggered by allergies, fever, fatigue, respiratory infections, sun exposure, or a weakened immune system

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Cold sores typically appear outside the mouth, under the nose, around the lips, or under the chin.

They may be triggered by:

Sores typically appear as a cluster of small blisters that rupture quickly to form small ulcers, which may later spread and become crusted or scabbed.

What does a cold sore feel like?

Symptoms are usually more severe the first time someone develops a cold sore. You may feel:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Hypersensitivity of skin in the location where the sore or blister will later appear.

When a person gets a cold sore outbreak, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Tingling, itching, and/or burning sensations on or around the lips are usually the first signs of a cold sore. These symptoms generally start about 12-24 hours before the cold sore appears.
  • Slowly blisters appear, which makes the affected part red, swollen, and painful.
  • In the following 2-3 days the blisters rupture. The ruptured blisters ooze fluid that may be clear or yellowish. This phase of oozing fluid is called the “weeping phase.”
  • In the next four to five days after the cold sore develops, it crusts and scabs over. The skin may crack or bleed as it heals.
  • Ultimately, the scab falls off. The skin underneath may be a little more pink or reddish than usual for a few days. Usually, it may take 1-2 weeks for the sore to heal completely.

A cold sore is contagious starting from the period a person feels the initial symptoms (such as tingling, burning, and itching) to the time the cold sore has healed completely (when the scab falls and skin has completely healed).

In some cases, cold sores can cause:


Ringworm is caused by a fungus. See Answer

What kills cold sores naturally?

What Kills Cold Sores Naturally
Combating cold sores involves boosting the immune system and using antiviral remedies such as tea tree oil, lemon balm, and ice

Cold sores are usually a symptom of a herpes infection, which can cause lifelong bouts of flare-ups and remission. Since the virus remains dormant until an outbreak is triggered, combating cold sores naturally involves boosting the immune system and using antiviral remedies such as tea tree oil, lemon balm, and ice.

While it is best to avoid triggers, it may not always be possible. Act quickly when you notice the first signs of a cold sore. Here are 25 natural remedies for cold sores:

  1. Tea tree oil: By far the most effective treatment of cold sores, tea tree oil has antiviral properties that can help get rid of lesions. As soon as you notice the itching or tingling sensation of a cold sore, apply 1-2 drops to the area with a cotton swab and repeat several times a day. Make sure to apply only to the area where the cold sore is located, since it can irritate the skin if used incorrectly.
  2. Lemon balm: Lemon has potent antiviral properties and is also high in antioxidants, vitamin C, and citric acid, all of which are effective in treating cold sores.
  3. Ice: Place ice in a wet towel or paper towel and place it over the affected area as long and as often as you can. Ice can help increase the dormancy of the virus in your nerves, which can mean the difference between a large and minor outbreak.
  4. St. John’s wort: This herb also has strong antiviral properties, making it an excellent choice for cold sore treatment. Apply St. John’s wort oil topically and take the tincture internally as soon as you notice cold sore symptoms.
  5. Tulsi (or holy basil): Tulsi has adaptogenic properties, which means that drinking tulsi tea regularly can help your body deal with stress better, potentially eliminating the need to treat cold sores altogether.
  6. L-Lysine: In lab tests, the amino acid lysine was found to inhibit the growth of herpes simplex virus (HSV), specifically HSV-1, which is the most common strain responsible for cold sores. Lysine makes it difficult for the virus to reproduce by preventing the body from absorbing arginine (high levels of which contribute to the growth of cold sores). L-lysine supplements are an effective way to stop a breakout from getting worse. Foods that contain L-lysine include milk, eggs, black beans, and pistachios.
  7. Aloe vera: Aloe vera gel treats cold sores. Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties of aloe vera extract may aid in the prevention of sores from worsening.
  8. Probiotics: For immunity and nutritional support, take a probiotic that contains 5 to 10 billion colonies. Not only do probiotics help strengthen your immune system, preventing viruses from infecting you in the first place, but also probiotic strains may be effective in fighting herpes virus.
  9. Multivitamins: According to some studies, vitamin C may aid in the treatment and prevention of cold sores. Zinc may reduce the number and frequency of cold sore outbreaks.
  10. Myrrh oil: Myrrh aids in soothing the skin and eliminating infection. Myrrh oil, when applied to a lesion, reduces the duration of sores and relieves associated pain.
  11. Garlic: Garlic contains antiviral compounds. Make a paste and apply to the affected area. While it may be very painful, it can be very effective
  12. Turmeric: Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is antiviral and antiseptic and can aid in the healing of wounds.
  13. Honey: Honey is antiviral as well as antibacterial and antifungal and can not only promote faster healing but also help prevent herpes virus from reproducing. In a study, honey and royal jelly (a honey-like substance reserved for the queen of the hive) were shown to inhibit HSV-1 and lower the person’s viral load.
  14. Bee propolis: Honeybee propolis is a resin made by honeybees, containing a combination of saliva, beeswax, and natural materials. It is high in antioxidants, which help boost the immune system. Propolis has been shown to inhibit the replication of herpes virus and help reduce the pain and duration of cold sores. Raw propolis can be applied directly to the lesion as needed a few times per day.
  15. Black tea: According to some studies, using black tea bags topically can inhibit herpes virus. Tannins in black tea inhibit the absorption of herpes virus into cells, thereby preventing the formation of lesions. Place a warm black tea bag (preferably organic) on the affected area for a few minutes several times a day. The earlier the treatment begins, the more likely it is that the outbreak will be stopped or reduced.
  16. Bentonite clay: Another gentle remedy is bentonite clay, which is effective at relieving the itch associated with cold sores. Make a thick paste of bentonite clay and distilled water or apple cider vinegar (ACV). Apply it to the sore and allow it to sit for a few minutes before removing with a washcloth and warm water.
  17. Coconut oil: Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil has antiviral properties and is also gentle on the skin. You can use it as an alternative to lip balm. Some studies suggest that taking it internally can also help heal cold sores.
  18. Peppermint oil: Studies have shown that peppermint oil can penetrate the skin and may act as an antiviral agent to prevent recurrent cold sore infections.
  19. Echinacea: Echinacea herbal tea strengthens a weakened immune system and aids in fighting herpes virus. It also reduces inflammation, pain, and other cold sore symptoms. 
  20. Cornstarch: Cornstarch balances the pH of the affected area. Cold sores can only survive in an acidic environment, so by increasing the pH of the skin and making it more alkaline, it can help combat the virus. 
  21. ACV: Drinking a tablespoon of ACV a day is known to prevent cold sores from developing in the first place. This is due to ACV's alkalizing effect that reduces the acidity required by HSV to thrive. You can also use a cotton ball to apply ACV directly to the affected area.
  22. Eucalyptus essential oil: This oil contains analgesic properties that can be used to prevent and treat cold sores. However, it should not be applied directly to your lips but mixed with aloe vera gel.
  23. Salt: Salt has healing properties that can help treat cold sores. Apply a tablespoon of salt to the affected area for 2 minutes, then remove with a cotton pad soaked in warm water.
  24. Avoid touching: It is crucial not to touch the sore, especially in the first few days when it's new and blistered, as this will spread infection. 
  25. Healthy habits: Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress can improve your immune system and gut, which can help keep cold sores at bay.

What are medications for cold sores?

Cold sores are commonly treated with antiviral medications such as acyclovir and valacyclovir

These medications may help reduce the number of outbreaks and severity and duration of cold sores. They may also help relieve pain and speed up healing.

How can I prevent having a cold sore?

If you have not been infected with Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), you can protect yourself from having the infection by taking the following precautions around people with cold sores:

  • Avoid any kind of intimate contact, such as kissing and oral sex, with someone who has a cold sore.
  • Do not share personal articles, such as toothbrushes, cosmetics, towels, razors, dishes, cutlery, and straws.
  • Wash your hands before touching your face or genitals.

If you have already been infected or have come in contact with HSV-1, you may reduce your risk of having a cold sore by:

  • Trying to stay healthy: Fever can be an important trigger for a cold sore. This is the reason cold sores are also called fever blisters.
  • Avoiding mental and emotional stress: Keep yourself calm through different stress-reducing activities, such as reading, listening to music, yoga, and meditation.
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system: Take proper diet and rest because fatigue may weaken your immune system and make you vulnerable to get sick.
  • Protecting yourself from strong sunlight and wind: Avoid going out when it is too sunny or windy. You should protect your lips and from sunburn by wearing a sunscreen and lip balm with SPF.

In case you get a cold sore, avoid kissing a baby, and wash your hands with soap and water before you touch them as it may cause a dangerous condition in babies, called neonatal herpes.

Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022

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