The pain of cold sores, not to mention the associated social stigma, can cause worry and stress. If you have a cold sore, you’ll want it to heal as soon as possible, but if it becomes infected, it can take much longer to heal.
Neosporin is an antibiotic ointment that kills any germs it comes into contact with. It can be used to prevent and treat secondary infections of cold sores, especially if there is broken skin.
This article will look at how to use Neosporin to manage cold sores.
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The herpes simplex virus type 1, often known as HSV-1, causes cold sores. The virus affects 47.8% of US adults, but most people who catch the virus never show any symptoms.¹
The virus spreads in a few ways:
Via bodily fluids
Sharing of consumables such as cups, plates, and toys.
Even if the infected person is not showing symptoms, they can transmit it to someone else. The virus can spread from when the first warning tingling is felt until the sore has completely healed.
Before you begin treatment, it’s important to confirm that you do have a cold sore. The signs and symptoms of a cold sore include:
Painful, swollen neck lymph nodes
Pain in the throat, with brownish tonsil covering and superficial ulcers
Symptoms of itching, burning, tingling, or discomfort before outward signs appear
A cold sore’s visible signs begin as a small, shallow gray ulcer on a red foundation
The last stages of a cold sore are crusting, scabbing, and looking dry and yellow
Cold sores can appear on the lip, gum, nose, front of the tongue, inner cheek, throat, the roof of the mouth, fingers, and chin.
A cold sore will often burst open and drain around two days after it appears. A scab will develop once the cold sore dries up. Cold sores should start to heal within ten days but are contagious and may be irritating or painful while they heal.
Applying Neosporin to the dry, crusted-over site of a cold sore can help prevent further infection. Always keep the area wet with Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment. This reduces the risk of a secondary bacterial infection, which may develop when opportunistic bacteria enter the body via a wound.
Using Neosporin on cold sores speeds up the healing process. There is currently no permanent way to eliminate a cold sore. However, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines and creams to speed up the recovery period of a cold sore if it’s taking a while to go away by itself.
Covering the area where Neosporin has been applied with a clean dressing, such as a Band-Aid, will help to keep dirt and bacteria out while the cold sore heals. A thin layer of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the cold sore and the skin around it will help prevent further irritation and dryness.
Avoid direct sunlight on a cold sore, whether treating it at home or seeing a dermatologist or general practitioner (GP). Rather than using sun cream on the cold sore, cover it with a lip balm containing sunscreen to prevent the sun cream from going into your mouth. Use a cotton swab or an old cosmetic brush to apply the lip balm, and throw the swab or brush away as soon as the cold sore has healed.
Sunscreen lip balm used directly on a cold sore should also be thrown away once the infection has cleared up.
Since it is an antibiotic, Neosporin can treat wounds caused by various bacteria. Once a cold sore break open, it's more susceptible to bacterial infection, and Neosporin can help to prevent such secondary infections.
Since cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and not bacteria, using Neosporin will not help the original cold sore to heal but will prevent and/or treat secondary infections.
Prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in persons aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cold sores: Signs and symptoms | American Academy of Dermatology Association
Cold sores | NHS
Neosporin ointment | Med Broadcast
Are cold sores are contagious? | Abreva
Cold sores (HSV-1) | Kids Health
Herpes simplex virus | World Health Publishing
Cold sores stages | Abreva
Mouth sores | Queensland Government