How Do You Treat a Cold Sore in Your Nose?

Medically Reviewed on 5/26/2022

What is a cold sore?

Cold sores are a type of blister that may show up clear and then become cloudy. Treat a cold sore under your nose with home remedies, topical creams and ointments, and prescription medications.
Cold sores are a type of blister that may show up clear and then become cloudy. Treat a cold sore under your nose with home remedies, topical creams and ointments, and prescription medications.

Cold sores are a type of blister that may show up clear and then become cloudy. Cold sores typically appear outside your mouth around your lips, cheeks, or nose. A cold sore in your nose can be painful and require treatment.

Also called fever blisters or oral herpes, cold sores will start to ooze, form a crust, then heal completely in one to two weeks. Cold sores are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). 

Cold sores are small blisters. In most cases, they will get better by themselves, but they can also become infected by bacteria. 

You may become infected by HSV-1 in your childhood or young adulthood without knowing. Sores can sporadically appear on your nose, chin, or other places on your face.

??Cold sores are very contagious and can spread by direct physical contact. You can get the virus from: 

  • Kissing
  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Sharing drink containers
  • Sharing eating utensils
  • Sharing towels
  • Sharing toothbrushes

What causes cold sores under the nose? 

The herpes virus can affect your skin forever. Even if you’re exposed at a young age, you might not have symptoms until you are older. The cold sores could pop up anywhere, anytime. So if you typically get them on your lips, that doesn’t mean they can’t appear under your nose occasionally. 

However, the nose is sensitive, and a cold sore developing under or inside your nose can be extremely painful. You’ll want to find ways to treat the cold sore rather than waiting for it to go away on its own. 

What are the symptoms of a cold sore? 

Cold sores can develop and last up to 14 days. They can cause dehydration, specifically in young children, because of how painful it is to swallow. Primary infection with herpes simplex virus is likely to be more severe in newborns and young children or people with compromised immune systems. Cold sore symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Blisters and ulcers in and around your mouth, nose, and lips
  • Swelling in your face and neck glands
  • Pain in your mouth and on your gums
  • Sore throat

The stages of a cold sore under your nose

A cold sore can develop in stages. You may not even experience symptoms the first time you have a cold sore. 

However, they typically grow in the following way: 

First, you’ll have itching and tingling in a specific spot a day or so before the cold sore actually appears. Then, a group of small blisters will start popping up in that one spot. 

Then you may feel pain, tenderness, and a burning feeling around your blisters. After a few days, the blisters will burst. 

The cold sore becomes crusty and dries up before falling off after ten to 14 days.

Treating a cold sore in your nose

While the cold sores are healing, they can be irritating and painful.

When you have a cold sore, stick to eating cool, soft foods. Don’t eat or put anything on your skin that could irritate your cold sores. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after applying topical creams. When you’re outside, put a dedicated sunblock on the affected area. Ibuprofen or paracetamol can help ease the pain and swelling of your cold sore. 

Waiting for your cold sore to go away can be long and painful, but there are a few ways to help soothe the cold sore or help it clear up faster. 

Home remedies

You can try multiple home remedies when you first notice a cold sore forming. Try the following tips to help reduce pain and swelling: 

  • A cold, damp washcloth
  • Ice or cold compress
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen

Topical creams and ointments

Over-the-counter anesthetic creams and lotions like lidocaine or benzocaine can help reduce pain. Other creams and ointments like docosanol or benzyl alcohol can promote quicker healing if used early. 

Prescription medications

Antiviral drugs like acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir, and penciclovir can help heal cold sores quicker. If you have back-to-back outbreaks, you can talk to your doctor about a prescription antiviral medication. 

Cold sores can’t always be avoided, but you can help prevent them by treating them at the first sign. Before the cold sore appears, you’ll feel tingling and itching. This is when you should try to start treatment.

You could also try to avoid certain cold sore triggers, though some are unavoidable: 

When to see a doctor

You won’t need medical attention for your cold sore in most cases. Rarely, though, if your eye becomes infected, this can be serious. This could happen after a previous cold sore infection. If your eye is tingling, aching, or red, you should have an eye doctor or primary care physician check your eye for HSV-1. They may refer you to an eye specialist. You’ll need prescribed antiviral tablets if herpes affects your eye. 

Additionally, if you have broken skin and your cold sore pops nearby, you could spread infection from the sores to the broken skin. This can cause serious issues that need immediate treatment. 

If you have a weakened immune system, you could be more susceptible to HSV-1 infection. It would be best if you talked to your doctor about medication to prevent cold sores, thus reducing your risk of infection.

Cold sores will seem much more significant to you than anyone else. Don't feel embarrassed by your cold sore. They're pretty common. Focus on minimizing your pain and swelling and avoid spreading HSV-1 to anyone else. Most likely, sores will go away on their own in a couple of weeks. 

Medically Reviewed on 5/26/2022

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Cold Sores in Children: About the Herpes Simplex Virus."

Better Health Channel: "Cold sores."

healthdirect: "Cold sores."

Herpes Viruses Association: "Cold sores – questions and answers."

Houston Methodist: "How Can I Get Rid of Cold Sores Quickly?"

NHS: "Cold sores."

University Health Service: "Cold and Canker Sores."