Cold sores are a product of the herpes simplex 1 virus. When the virus is activated, small blisters form on the outside of the mouth and lip area, and can even affect other parts of the face. Cold sore blisters can be painful. They will fill up, then drain and form a scab. According to the Patient Education Institute, cold sore blisters usually go away within one to two weeks. In the meantime, there are measures you can take to make them less painful and to prevent them from spreading.
To Ease Pain
There are many creams available over-the-counter that will ease some of the pain associated with cold sores. One way these creams fight the pain is by keeping the blisters soft and moist so the outer layer of the scab doesn't dry and crack. Apply the medication directly to the scab.
Another topical treatment that can prevent drying and cracking is petroleum jelly. Applied to the sores, petroleum jelly also prevents outside bacteria from entering the open scab.
To ease the swelling from a cold sore, you can apply an ice pack directly to the sore. Ice will numb the pain and make much of the swelling subside. If the cold sore scab is dry and cracked when it swells, it will cause a "splitting" sensation that can be quite painful.
The Nemours Foundation lists the sun as one of the primary aggravators for cold sores, and the more it hits the sores and scabs the more it can encourage the virus to spread, as well as cause pain to the inflamed sore and scab. The sunblock protects the scab from the sun and keeps it softened. While you can use a sunblock stick to cover the cold sore scab, be sure to discard it after use as it is now contaminated.
To Prevent Spreading and Continued Outbreaks
One of the best treatments to apply to a cold sore scab to prevent spreading of the virus is petroleum jelly. As mentioned above, petroleum jelly keeps the scab softened and outside bacteria out, but it also prevents the HSV-1 virus from leaving the scabbed area and being passed on to others.
Tea tree oil has antiviral properties, specifically against the herpes simplex virus, according to a study reviewed by the National Institute of Health. Tea tree oil, applied twice daily with a cotton swab, can help prevent the spread of the virus to others when you apply it to an oozing scab.
If you have an active cold sore scab, be sure to wash your hands after touching the sore. Throw away any disposable items that were in contact with the scab, and do not have close physical contact with another until the scab is gone.