Why Shouldn't I Pop a Cold Sore?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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You should not pop a cold sore because doing so generally increases the likelihood of infection and scarring. It can also significantly heighten the chances of spreading a cold sore to others. Popping a cold sore can result in a secondary bacterial infection that complicates the primary viral infection that causes cold sores to initially form. Several methods of treating cold sores are effective and easy to follow without these risks of worsening this common condition.

A cold sore can often be unsightly and a source of irritation, though it is temporary and will generally heal on its own within about a week on average. It can be tempting to pop cold sores due to the itching, particularly when it is on the edge or corner of the lip. The itching sensation is often part of the natural healing mechanism, so scratching or picking at the sore tends to disrupt and slow down this process.

Cold and hot compresses can both be helpful measures to relieve a cold sore. Some people have also found topical remedies such as aloe vera gel and witch hazel to also be effective for treating a cold sore. Both can relieve some of the swelling and itching, as well as keep harmful bacteria away from the area. More serious cold sores that fail to heal within one week may sometimes need to be treated with a prescription antiviral medication.


Since cold sores are caused by the spreading of a virus called herpes simplex I, they can easily spread through contact. Not only should you resist the urge to pop a cold sore, you should also be careful not to share drinking glasses, eating utensils, lipstick, or other items with others until your cold sore is completely cleared up. Health professionals usually recommend switching to a new and unopened toothbrush after your cold sore heals so as to avoid possibly re-introducing the infection.

While many cold sores are mild and only appear one at a time, some more serious cases can involve multiple, larger sores around the mouth. It is even more important not to pop a cold sore in this case because this can lead to complications such as swelling of the lips, lower jaw, and even other areas of the face. These kinds of cold sores can also sometimes leave noticeable scars known as post inflammatory marks, another incentive not to pop a cold sore.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

I heard that it's possible to spread the herpes virus to other parts of the body (including the genital area with hand contact). So popping a cold sore with bare hands is a very bad idea.

Post 2

@ZipLine-- I know you want your cold sore to heal as soon as possible, but believe me, popping it is not the best way to do that.

Keeping the area clean and moisturized and using OTC cold sore creams will help the cold sore heal quickly. I've also heard good things about l-lysine supplements for cold sores.

The article is right that popping it increases the chances of infection and scarring. You might not be able to clean your lip properly and the virus might spread to your mouth area and cause new cold sores. Popping it might also leave a permanent scar. Just let your body take care of it on its own, that's the best way.

Post 1

I heard that once a cold sore becomes an ulcer, popping it and cleaning the pus helps it heal faster. But the article says that this might cause an infection or a scar.

Should I pop my cold sore or not?

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