How to Speed up Cold Sore Scabs Healing

Cold sore scabs are not only conspicuous but painful and uncomfortable too. Even worse is when the scab over and crack or bleed. Below we look at the stages involved I formation of a cold sore scab, whether it is contagious, if it can go away on its own, why it falls off and various home treatments to make it heal faster.

Cold Sore Scabs

Before we delve into cold sore scabs, it is important to understand what cold sores are and how scabbing happens.

Cold Sores

Though cold sores appear when one has a cold, they are not caused by the cold itself. A cold sore is the result of herpes viruses. Although both herpes 1 and herpes 2 can occur the lips, herpes 1 is the most common cause of cold sores. 

According to, 90 percent of the population gets affected by the virus but only 40 percent of this show noticeable symptoms. To tell which of the two viruses you have, medical tests are necessary. The cold sore virus is quite contagious and a brief contact can result in transfer of the virus. It is especially not encouraged to kiss babies when you have a cold sore infection. 

Once you contract the herpes virus, it remains in you and lives in the nerve endings of the skin. Though dormant most of the times, cold sores will flare up once triggered by stress, compromised immune system or presence of other viruses. It is important to not that not all scabs on lips are from cold sores.

Cold Sore Scab

During the healing process of a cold sore, there is a scabbing stage. This happens after the open sore drains fluid leading to a wound. There is formation of a thick yellow crust and to protect the skin beneath, a cold sore scab forms. It covers the skin and gives it time to heal. Like scabs elsewhere, a scabbing cold sore is likely to itch and may last for up to three weeks.

Cold Sore Healing Stages

Cold sores go through various healing stages. It is in one of these that a cold sore scab forms. The stages are discussed below.

Latent Stage

This is the first stage in which the sore is not noticeable. After infection, the herpes simplex virus remains dormant for a while before showing up.

Prodrome Stage

At this stage, there is a tingle or itch on your lip, at the point where the cold sore will appear. It is attributed to the movement of the virus from the nerves to the skin and the proliferation of the virus as they reproduce.

Inflammation Stage

In the inflammation stage, there is swelling and inflammation on your lips.


Also referred to as the pre-sore stage, this happens when there is formation of blisters. In this stage, of the scabbing cycle, there is formation of many tiny blisters that are clustered together making the cold sore appear like one big blister. There is increased pain and some pain.

Open Sore or Ulcer Stage

At this point, the tiny blisters break, drain and are hard to control. It happens about four days after the cold sore is visible. It is the most painful stage and contagious. The pain may spread to the lymph nodes and you may get a fever. To avoid passing the virus on, it is important not to touch the draining fluid as doing so could see it spreading to other parts of the body or pass to other people.
In this stage, the sore is most contagious as the draining fluids contain the virus. The stage in which the cold sore is contagious may last between seven to ten days.

The Scabbing Over or Crusting Phase

It is at this point of the cycle that a cold sore scab forms. After drainage, a yellow crust forms on the cold sore. It protects the skin below and is a sign of the beginning of the healing process. Though the pain may have reduced at this point, any strain on the lip during this stage could result in cracking or bleeding, both of which are painful.

Healing Stage

In this stage, the skin beneath the cold sore scab starts to heal and parts of the scabs loosen and fall off. The scab shrinks with time and eventually clears up. During this phase, it is possible to experience itch. The herpes virus will retreat and your lips will get fully healed.

Post Scabbing Stage

At this point there is complete relief. A red spot may still appear on the lip after the scab falls off but it will clear up within no time. The healing process may take up to two weeks.

How Long Does a Cold Sore Scab Last?

You could be wondering:
“How long does a cold sore scab last?”
“Does a cold sore scab go on its own?”
According to The American Nurse Today, the scabbing stage of a cold sore lasts two to four days on the least before it starts to fall off. The healing stage which occurs after the scab starts to fall off could take five days.However, picking on your lips or on the scab could prolong the duration. Left to its own devices, the cold sore scab can go away on its own. This, though will take longer than if some intervention was made. The cold sore scab, if left alone, could take two to three weeks to clear.

Is a Cold Sore Scab Contagious   

When a cold sore scabs, is it still contagious? Yes, a cold sore scab is contagious. Although this is the case, the cold sore is most infectious during the open sore stage as this is where the fluid from the blisters drain. This fluid contains the herpes virus and is thus quite easy to contract it through basic touch.

Cold Sore Scab Keeps Coming Off 

So, you are in the shower situation where the scab on your cold sore fell off and when you thought you were done, some other gets off. When cold sore scabs keep coming of, it could be caused by picking at the scab, getting ripped off or simply because it is time for the scab to fall off.

Early or premature falling off of scabs may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as cracking and bleeding. The area of the lip will still be red after the scab is gone. Frequent falling may make the sore not to heal, extending the usual healing duration.

Cold Sore Scab Fell Off Bleeding and Red

Whenever a cold sore scab falls off, the lip is likely to be left bleeding or red depending on what stage of the healing process it happens. Premature peeling or accidental falling off of the scab may be caused by dryness of the scab. It is necessary to keep the scab hydrated by regularly moistening it to reduce the chances of cracking and bleeding. It will also help to speed up healing time. Where the scabbing falls off as part of the normal healing process, the area may be left pink or red. There is nothing to worry about this as the red spot will clear with time.

Cold Sore Scab Treatment – How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Scab

When a cold sore scab forms, it is important to know that it has a purpose. This stage protects the stage beneath and allows it to heal. The black or yellow crust acts as a protective layer giving the skin time to regenerate new skin cells. 

It is important, therefore, not to hasten the peeling off. In addition, if done prematurely, bleeding and pain may be experienced. Avoid touching the scab and keep it clean.
Some appropriate interventions can, however, be done to get rid of the scab sooner and make the cold sore scab faster.

1. Use Topical Treatment

To hasten the healing process, apply over the counter topical ointments for cold sores. These are meant to speed up the healing process, keep it moist and give relief to accompanying discomfort and symptoms. Products such as benzyl alcohol and lidocaine are quite appropriate. These are great if you are looking to healing your scab overnight.

2. Apply Petroleum Jelly

Generally a scab is hard and subject to cracking. Applying petroleum jelly will go a long way in softening the scab and prevent it from cracking. This way the scab can remain intact which gives room for the scab beneath to heal fast.

3. Use Ice Packs

An ice pack is a great home remedy for cold sore scabs. It numbs the area as a result of which pain is taken away. It will also help to ease the itch that comes with the scabbing phase of a cold sore’s healing process. Vicks on a cold sore scab can have the same effect of relief.

While having a cold sore, it is important to prevent the spread of the herpes virus. Avoid skin to skin contact such as kissing, do not share toothbrushes, straws, glasses and lip care products. Also avoid itching or picking on the scab as this only serves to prolong the healing process, increases the risks of spreading the virus and scarring.  

List of References


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