Finding The Best Cold Sore Medication: Abreva vs. Zovirax (aciclovir)

By | May 31, 2017

The internet offers mixed reviews on many of the dozens of cold sore medications on the market today, ranging from statements like “my cold sore was gone in two hours” to “this stuff made it worse!” Some cold sore medications obviously have a better track record than others, but it can be difficult to find the perfect remedy for that annoying and embarrassing cold sore. The biggest factor that will contribute to the effectiveness of your chosen cold sore remedy is noting the stage at which the cold sore has developed when the first treatment is applied to the site. Any cold sore sufferer knows that the best way to treat a cold sore is to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Once blisters begin to form, you may be out of luck if you are not using the right cold sore medication. I am a frequent cold sore sufferer who has tried almost every home remedy and cold sore medication on the market. In this article I am going to compare two of the most popular cold sore medications: Abreva, the only FDA approved over the counter medication and Zovirax, an FDA approved prescription medication.


Abreva can be purchased in almost any drug-store for $ 16-$ 20. Right off the bat, it is important to note that you won’t get much for what you pay. The medicine is in a tiny 2 gram (.07 ounce) tube that is barely an inch long. I have seen many good (and many bad) reviews of Abreva, and my opinion falls somewhere in-between. Healing a cold sore quickly with Abreva is hit-or-miss. I have learned that if I liberally apply Abreva almost every hour as soon as I feel any burning or tingling, it does help tremendously and there is 90% chance that I will avoid a full blown breakout. Often, if caught at that stage, the blisters will simply not develop. However, if I don’t have any when the tingling begins, or I wake up to find that the blisters have already begun to form, the cold sore will generally run its course, lasting 9-10 days regardless of how much I continue to apply. It really is important to apply Abreva immediately upon feeling any tingling or pain. Even an hour can make a big difference.

Zovirax (Aciclovir):

Let me just say that I absolutely love Zovirax and I regret all the years I suffered with cold sores, spending hours researching home remedies and over-the-counter products, when a simple call to the doctor for a prescription was the answer. It is truly a life-saver when it comes to cold sores. Whether it is applied at the first signs of a cold sore or even after bumps and blisters have begun to form, it will zap my cold sore in 24-48 hours. In addition, it does not “dry out” the cold sores which many medications do; shrinking the blisters, but leaving a very hard scab that cracks and bleeds. Zovirax also has something in it to relieve pain and itching. In most cases, if Zovirax is applied during the tingling stage the cold sore does not develop (like Abreva). If it is applied after blisters have formed, it shrinks the blisters overnight and relieves all the redness and irritation surrounding the sore. I have never had a cold sore for more than three days when using Zovirax. The one down-side to using this medication is the cost. A 5 gram tube of Zovirax retails at about $ 120.00 and is subject to a higher co-pay with insurance because there is no generic equivalent available yet.

Quinn Black is a frequent cold sore sufferer and is the author of, a free informational website that provides tips to prevent cold sores and uncover the best home remedies and most effective cold sore medications.