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How Can I Treat a Cold Sore during Pregnancy?

By N. Swensson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A cold sore is a blister that is triggered by the herpes simplex virus and can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. Treating a cold sore during pregnancy can be a challenge, because some women want to avoid taking any medications during this time. For others, using medication after consulting a medical professional may be considered acceptable if there is not a risk of exposing the baby to the virus. For those who develop a cold sore while pregnant and want to avoid medication, some home remedies are available that can reduce discomfort and speed healing. As pregnancy can sometimes bring on cold sore outbreaks, avoiding other triggers like stress, illness, and sun exposure can be helpful.

Although medications are available that can shorten the duration of a cold sore and help alleviate painful symptoms, a woman who develops a cold sore during pregnancy may be concerned that taking medicine could harm the baby. In most cases, it's a good idea to have a medical professional evaluate a specific case and give advice on whether medication is a good idea. Sometimes a physician can prescribe medication for a woman who has genital herpes to help prevent an outbreak during delivery, because exposure to the virus can be harmful for a newborn. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also tests most medicines for safety during pregnancy, although some cold sore medicines have not been fully evaluated.

When taking medication is not possible or desirable, a cold sore during pregnancy can be treated with home remedies. A pregnant woman who thinks she is getting a cold sore may be able to prevent it by applying rubbing alcohol to the area. When a cold sore is already present, applying ice packs can help to reduce swelling and pain, and using petroleum jelly can keep the area from further drying and cracking. Others recommend applying a paste of baking soda or corn starch and water to the cold sore to speed healing. Rinsing the mouth and lips with warm salt water can also help to relieve pain.

As with any illness, preventive measures can be very helpful for avoiding a cold sore during pregnancy. Any known triggers should be avoided, including stress and exposure to illnesses. Women who are likely to get cold sores from too much sun should wear protective clothing and sunscreen as much as possible. Eating a balanced, healthy diet and getting enough sleep are also important ways to maintain overall health and prevent cold sores.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Jun 17, 2013

@fBoyle-- Why can't you try natural cold sore remedies like aloe vera and salt?

Salt burns but it treats cold sores quickly. I treated a cold sore with salt when I was pregnant. I mixed salt with a little bit of water and applied it on my cold sore several times a day for about five minutes. It burns and turns the cold sore white, but you will see that it scabs over and completely heals in a few days.

By literally45 — On Jun 16, 2013

@fBoyle-- My sister was on anti-viral medications during her pregnancy. I don't know if every anti-viral medication is okay though.

L-lysine should be okay since it's just an amino acid and not a medication. Many foods contain lysine, if you prefer that to supplements.

Before you decide to do anything though, check with your doctor. Doctors learn new things every day about what's safe and what's not during pregnancy.

By fBoyle — On Jun 15, 2013

Are anti-viral medications safe to take during pregnancy?

I've heard that the supplement l-lysine treats cold sore symptoms quickly. Is this supplement safe for pregnant women?

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