Cold Sores: Diagnosis and Treatment | Tampa | St. Pete | BrandonPeople who have had a previous cold sore outbreak will easily recognize the recurrence. Those who suspect that they or their child may have a primary infection, specifically if the sore has not healed within one week or so should consult their doctor.

The signs and symptoms are typically clear enough for a dermatology expert to make a diagnosis. However, they may also order a blood test. Sometimes the doctor may take a sample of the fluid scraped from the cold sore to detect whether the virus is present.

This is typically done on patients with weakened immune systems, such as those receiving chemotherapy, or people with HIV/AIDS.

Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides cutting-edge skin care treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and surrounding locations.



A majority of cold sore outbreaks resolve within one to two weeks without treatment. Some antiviral drugs and ointments may shorten the duration of the outbreak and eliminate pain and discomfort.



Over-the-counter (OTC) cold sore antiviral creams can decrease the duration of recurrent infection. Most creams, such as Zovirax and Soothelip, contain either acyclovir or penciclovir.

These creams are effective only if they are applied as soon as the symptoms appear and tingling indicates the development of a cold sore.

The cream will need to be applied up to five times a day for four to five days for best results. This can alleviate the symptoms, but not the virus. Creams cannot help prevent future outbreaks.

If a person wants to purchase antiviral creams, there is a wide selection online with thousands of customer reviews.


Oral Antiviral Medications

Oral antiviral meds include valacyclovir, acyclovir, or famciclovir. These can significantly reduce or even stop a cold sore outbreak if taken when the initial signs appear. A patient who has had several recurrent infections in a year may take these daily to prevent outbreaks.


Treatments to Relieve Discomfort

Cold Sores Cream

Creams can help treat the dryness and irritation associated with cold sores. Certain OTC creams are available that do not comprise antiviral drugs, such as Blistex, Bonjela, or Cymex. These may help reduce discomfort.

These treatments do not hasten the healing process. However, they may be helpful if the cold sores are itchy, dry, or painful. These creams should be dabbed onto the cold sores without rubbing, then wash their hands thoroughly. Individuals with cold sores should not share creams with others.



Tylenol or Ibuprofen, containing paracetamol, may help reduce pain. These are available in the liquid variant for younger patients. Pregnant women with cold sores should discuss their treatment options with their physician.


Patients with Weakened Immune Systems

Patients with a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV or AIDS, or those undergoing chemotherapy, may experience complications, as their immune system is weakened.

The infection may spread to other body areas, including the eye, and there is also a risk of inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis.

Antiviral tablets may be prescribed for such patients, and they may need to consult a specialist. The treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms, and the patient’s health condition.

Dr. Ewanowski’s dermatology practice and medical spa receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and nearby areas for safe and proven skin care procedures.

SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.