Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is responsible for causing cold sores. Doctors may simply examine the cold sore and prescribe you an oral medicine or topical application.

Doctors may also take a culture from the sore and advise test blood for antibodies to the virus.

There is no cure for a cold sore, but the pain can be alleviated using OTC medications, avoiding spicy or acidic foods, and applying ice. For instance, Abreva (docosanol) is an OTC topical remedy used to minimize pain and heal a cold sore. The cream is ought to be used several times a day to speed the healing.

However, if you fail to get relief from Abreva and your cold sore worsens or gets painful, your doctor may prescribe an anesthetic gel along with an antiviral medication. Generic drugs for cold sores include:

  • Acyclovir (Generic Zovirax)

Acyclovir is a common antiviral medicine that inhibits the activity of HSV and varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The drug works by invading itself into a virus’ DNA and preventing the virus from proliferating. Acyclovir comes in dosages of 200 mg, 400 mg, and 800 mg. Doctors may prescribe acyclovir 2 to 5 times a day for 5 to 10 days.

  • Valacyclovir (Generic Valtrex)

Valacyclovir is another antiviral drug used for cold sores. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved valacyclovir for the treatment of cold sores in adults and children aged 12 and above. Doctors recommend valacyclovir 2 g for the treatment of cold sores, which is to be taken 12 hours apart.

  • Famciclovir (Generic Famvir)

Famciclovir is effective against HSV and VZV. The drug comes in 125 mg, 250 mg, and 500 mg potencies. Doctors often recommend taking famciclovir 1,500 mg as a single dose of recurring cold sores.

  • Penciclovir (Generic Denavir)

Penciclovir comes in a topical cream. The FDA has approved this drug only for treating cold sores on the lips or face. Penciclovir can be used by adults and children aged 12 or above. One needs to apply penciclovir cream directly to a cold sore every 2 hours for 4 days.

The abovementioned prescription drugs for cold sores are effective, but some OTC products also help alleviate the symptoms, such as Carmex, Blistex, and Lysine balms, sunscreens, and even oral OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Cold sores could increase the risk of bacterial skin infection. Therefore, it is important to keep the sores clean by washing gently with soap and water.