Most toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can numb the area and help dry out blisters or halt their progression.
What causes cold sores?
How to use toothpaste on cold sores
Before the cold sore fully appears, you may feel a tingling or burning sensation in the area. Take a small amount of toothpaste that contains SLS and apply a small layer to the area overnight. In the morning, wash the area with water and dry with a washcloth.
The Wound Care Society also recommends applying a combination of toothpaste and salt to the area, as this may be more effective than toothpaste alone. Keep in mind, however, that the salt can cause stinging and dry out the skin around the sore.
However, it’s always best to seek medical advice before using home remedies for cold sores. There is no solid scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of toothpaste in treating cold sores, and it can cause skin irritation and damage, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Even natural remedies can cause side effects, so caution should be exercised. For example, if you have sensitive skin you may want to apply it for a few hours but wash it off before bed instead of leaving it on overnight.
What other treatments can help cold sores?
Other home remedies that may provide relief from the pain and promote healing include:
- Cold compresses
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Over-the-counter (OTC) cold sore ointment, such as docosanol
- OTC pain relievers, such as lidocaine cream
Your doctor can also prescribe antiviral ointments and oral medications to help heal the sores.
How can you prevent cold sores?
While there are no proven ways to prevent cold sores, you can protect yourself with the following tips:
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a cold sore
- Identify and avoid triggers:
- Wear sunscreen
- Manage stress
- Avoid going out in cold weather
- Start treatment as soon as you feel that a cold sore is about to erupt, as it may help with faster healing.
Cold sores are painful, and not all home remedies are guaranteed to work in alleviating pain or speeding up healing. Over-the-counter pain medication and antiviral therapy may be better treatment options to help manage an outbreak.
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Wound Care Society. Does salt and toothpaste help cold sores? http://woundcaresociety.org/does-salt-and-toothpaste-help-cold-sores
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Cold sores: Overview. 2018 Jul 12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525782/
WebMD. How to Get Rid of Cold Sores. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/cold-sores-at-home-care
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