How to Treat Cold Sore Scabs

Updated April 17, 2017

Cold sore scabs form when blisters caused by the herpes simplex type 1 virus break and crust over. While sufferers may find the appearance of these scabs unsightly, they are an important stage in the healing process. For this reason, the scabs should not be disturbed, but be allowed to fall off of their own accord over the course of several days. Cold sore scabs cannot be prevented or cured once you have the herpes simplex type 1 virus. However, appropriate treatments may help relieve the discomfort felt during this stage of the virus, and encourage the skin's natural healing process.

Dissolve 1/2 tsp salt in a cup of lukewarm water. Splash the salt water on the affected area, or hold a flannel soaked in the salt water against the skin. Gently pat dry using a soft towel.

Apply an over-the-counter topical antiviral product to shorten the length of an outbreak. Brand names include Abreva, Lipactin, Zovirax, Denavir and Valtrex.

Make a cold compress by soaking a flannel in cold water, or wrapping ice in a flannel. Hold the cold compress against the affected area.

Apply petroleum jelly to the affected area to protect and moisturise the scabs. This will help prevent them from cracking or falling off prematurely.


Avoid picking at or peeling off cold sore scabs to give the skin time to heal. Wash your hands before and after touching cold sore scabs to avoid passing on the virus or infecting other areas of your body.


Consult your doctor if your cold sores do not heal in 10 to 14 days, if your symptoms are severe, if you frequently suffer from cold sores, if your immune system is compromised by an existing health condition such as cancer or HIV, or if you experience eye irritation. If you have a cold sore, or have recently had one, avoid close contact with those at increased risk of infection, such as infants, eczema suffers, or people with a suppressed immune system.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/2 tsp cooking or table salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Soft towel
  • Over-the-counter topical antiviral product
  • Flannel
  • Petroleum jelly
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About the Author

Based in London, Lisa Green has been writing entertainment and women’s lifestyle articles since 2004. She has contributed to the MyVillage and Glam networks and is the former editor of Entertainmentwise. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from De Montfort University and a City & Guilds journalism certificate from the City of Bristol College.