How Effective Is Ice on a Cold Sore?

Helen Akers
Helen Akers
Ice provides temporary relief from swelling, but is not a cure.
Ice provides temporary relief from swelling, but is not a cure.

Applying ice on a cold sore can be effective in relieving some of its inflammation, but it is not a cure. Individuals may want to use ice at the first signs of an outbreak, applying it to the sore every hour for roughly five minutes at a time and not longer than a total of 15 minutes. The beginning stages of formation are when it is most effective. Sufferers will usually get a feeling of tingling in the skin of the affected area that alerts them to a potential outbreak.

Ice may help to reduce the unsightly appearance of a cold sore.
Ice may help to reduce the unsightly appearance of a cold sore.

Using ice will not cure the infection or prevent its recurrence. In fact, there is no known cure for the virus that causes cold sore outbreaks. The ice provides temporary relief from the swelling and inflammation, but it is not guaranteed to speed up the recovery and healing process.

It can be helpful to use the ice to reduce the unsightly appearance of the sore. Ice constricts the blood vessels in the skin that become irritated as a result of the virus. The cold temperature will most likely temporarily reduce the size of the sore. Any surrounding redness and inflammation are also likely to be reduced.

Ice is often used in conjunction with over-the-counter treatments or home remedies for cold sore relief.
Ice is often used in conjunction with over-the-counter treatments or home remedies for cold sore relief.

Ice can also help alleviate some of the pain associated with cold sores. The relief is likely to be temporary, but the remedy can be used in conjunction with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin. The patient needs to use the ice multiple times to alleviate the pain.

Some of the side effects of putting ice on a cold sore include temporary numbing of the affected area, but this usually subsides within a few hours of application. It can also be somewhat inconvenient to have to keep applying ice every so often in order to achieve the desired results. Those who use this treatment should also be careful to not allow the ice to come into contact with other people, as the virus that causes cold sores is very contagious. A few individuals also find the application of ice to the skin to be somewhat uncomfortable, especially if they are sensitive to cold temperatures.

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Discussion Comments

discographer

@burcinc-- Yes, in my experience too, ice slows down the formation of a cold sore. This is great because it gives me more time to try other treatments to get rid of the cold sore before it becomes filled with pus and then burst. After it bursts, it can spread and multiply so I try to dry it out before it gets to this stage.

And putting an ice cube on the cold sore gives instant relief from the pain and burning, even if it's for a short while.

burcinc

@serenesurface-- I don't think so. The virus is contained within the cold sore, it's present in the pus that forms when the blister becomes ulcerated. So applying ice on a blister doesn't kill the virus.

What ice can do is reduce swelling, redness and pain. So it helps with the symptoms. I suppose ice could also help slow down the development of the blister since it constricts blood vessels and reduces circulation in the area. I'm not sure though and I'm also not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

serenesurface

I realize ice is not a cure for cold sores, but doesn't ice kill viruses? So technically, it should help with the cold sore virus right?

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    • Ice provides temporary relief from swelling, but is not a cure.
      By: Okea
      Ice provides temporary relief from swelling, but is not a cure.
    • Ice may help to reduce the unsightly appearance of a cold sore.
      By: LoloStock
      Ice may help to reduce the unsightly appearance of a cold sore.
    • Ice is often used in conjunction with over-the-counter treatments or home remedies for cold sore relief.
      By: markcarper
      Ice is often used in conjunction with over-the-counter treatments or home remedies for cold sore relief.
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      Icing a cold sore may cause numbing that can last a few hours.
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