Cold sores, also known as herpes labialis, are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Genital herpes is caused by simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). That’s why a prescription medication like Valtrex (valacyclovir) treats genital herpes and is also quite effective for treating cold sores or cankers.
There are numerous antiviral drugs that can have several effects on oral herpes infections and genital herpes infections. These medications decrease the time that it takes for cold sores to heal and reduce symptoms, especially pain. Antiviral tablets can help prevent further outbreaks. They aim to stop the virus from multiplying and prevent the cold sores from becoming very severe. One must know that if the medication is taken as soon as the “tingling” feeling has started, it can prevent lesions from occurring, reduce the number and size of lesions that develop, and decrease the amount of viral shedding - making the virus less contagious. A severe herpes infection and other severe viral infections are extremely harmful to people who are immunocompromised.
On the other hand, when applying over-the-counter creams, like Abreva and Lysine, there is little effect to the existing cold sore. Most nonprescription treatments only treat the pain of cold sores and provide temporary relief; instead of preventing them from coming back. Although creams can help with the healing process, they do not remove the virus completely - so there are possibilities of cold sore recurrence in the same area.
Let’s look at facts:
According to Healthline, in clinical studies, Valtrex worked best for people who took it within two hours of their first cold sore symptom. These people had shorter cold sore episodes compared to people who didn’t take Valtrex at all.
When taking Valtrex, the duration of the cold sore is 1-3 days. When treating it with an OTC cream, the healing can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks!
OTC creams are more expensive than Valtrex. When looking at the actual amount needed to be taken, it takes about 5 pills of valacyclovir to clear up a fever blister. Therefore, the cost of valacyclovir is actually cheaper than the cost of OTC creams.