If you occasionally experience cold sores, you've probably been eager to try every remedy under the sun to help them heal up quickly. You may have heard about apple cider vinegar being a quick fix, but doctors will be quick to tell you "not so fast."
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small blisters that often form around the mouth. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), more than half of Americans ages 14 to 49 carry the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores, and most people catch the virus as children. The virus is passed either through skin contact or through the saliva of an infected person. Even after an outbreak clears up, the virus stays in your body, which means you will likely experience outbreaks again in the future. While there is no cure for cold sores, they are usually no cause for alarm and tend to clear up within a couple of weeks.
According to Lauren Ploch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, GA, even though many claim that apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties that they use as a justification to apply it to cold sores, it's wise to stick to traditional medicine to treat cold sore outbreaks.
"The best treatment for cold sores is an oral antiviral prescription medication, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir," Ploch said. "However, while any skin lesion may become secondarily infected by bacteria, secondary bacterial infection of viral cold sores in a person with a normally functioning immune system is rare."
You may also want to steer clear from applying apple cider vinegar if you have sensitive skin.
"While apple cider vinegar is a slightly more basic vinegar than other vinegars, it is still acidic compared to our skin's natural pH. Thus, it can burn when applied to the skin," Ploch said.
A better bet than home remedies would be to focus on cold sore prevention. You can prevent them by avoiding kissing anyone with an active cold sore, as well as avoiding sharing utensils and cups. If you're already infected and experiencing an outbreak, you can prevent passing the virus to someone else by taking these same precautions and by avoiding touching your cold sores and immediately washing your hands when you have touched them. Cold sores are often brought on by stress and sun exposure, so avoiding those when you can will also contribute to prevention.