A cold sore is a lesion on a person’s lip or around his or her mouth that is caused by herpes simplex virus type I (HSV-1). A typical outbreak may involve a single cold sore or a group of sores. The lesions are typically small but painful. You can reduce cold sore swelling and pain by using ice, heat packs and soothing gels such as aloe and vitamin E. If you don't have success with natural remedies, you can try an over-the-counter medication to reduce the swelling.
Cold sores are not life-threatening and usually will go away on their own within two weeks, but pain and swelling may lead to some discomfort in the meantime. One of the best ways to fight cold sore swelling is to apply ice or another cold item to the area. Doing this multiple times a day should help to reduce the swelling.
If you are not finding relief using ice, a heat pack may work. Hold a heat pack or a hot damp cloth up to your lip or the sore for a few minutes at a time. Heat can help to thin and release blood that is clotted in the cold sore area. Once the blood is released, your level of swelling may go down. Use disposable hot packs or thoroughly wash the exterior of non-disposable heating packs after use to avoid re-infection.
Other natural remedies to treat cold sore swelling include the use of aloe vera and vitamin E. You can buy aloe vera gel at a drug store or break open the leaf of an aloe vera plant and use the gel inside. Applying the gel directly to your sore can help to reduce the swelling and may take away some of the pain. Vitamin E contains many healing qualities and also can be a viable option. Break open a vitamin E capsule and gently rub the gel onto your cold sore using a cotton ball.
There are over-the-counter medications available to treat cold sores, as well. One medication is a light cream that can be applied several times a day; it contains ingredients that can help to reduce the size of a cold sore. There also are over-the-counter medicines for those who would rather take a pill instead of using a cream. Taking such pills daily during an outbreak can help a cold sore to heal faster and reduce swelling and itching. When a cold sore does not clear up from home treatment, a doctor may prescribe a prescription antiviral cream.
When you get a cold sore, it means you have been infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. This is a common infection that many people get at some point in life. Having a cold sore does not mean you have herpes simplex virus type II (HSV-2), which is responsible for genital herpes. HSV-1 can be spread to others when cold sores are present, however, so you should avoid activities such as kissing or sharing cups or utensils until your cold sore clears up.