Docosanol -- Medication for Cold Sores
The cold sore medication docosanol (Abreva®) can be bought without a prescription. It is currently the only over-the-counter (OTC) drug approved to shorten the duration of symptoms and the healing time. Unlike most antiviral medications, docosanol does not kill the cold sore virus -- rather, it changes the membrane of healthy, uninfected cells. This prevents the virus from attacking these cells and limits the infection.
Docosanol should be applied directly on the cold sore at the first signs of an outbreak five times a day. It works best if taken at the first sign of an outbreak. Headaches and a stuffy or runny nose are some of the most commonly reported side effects.
(To learn more about this cold sore medication, including what to do if you miss a dose, click Docosanol.)