Cold sores are caused by a virus and can be treated with antiviral over-the-counter preparations, prescription topical medications, and oral (systemic) antiviral medications. Topical or systemic treatment should be initiated early at the beginning of symptoms for maximum benefit.

You can help prevent cold sores with prophylactic antiviral treatment and avoiding precipitating factors, such as excessive sun exposure. Photoprotection, including sunscreen, can be helpful in reducing the reactivation of oral cold sores.

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