Image of a cold sore

Cold Sore Duration

Usually cold sores last from 8 to 14 days, but they can last even longer in some cases. Treating cold sores early helps shorten the duration.

The typical path of a cold sore is:

  • Prodrome Phase: sufferers feel tingling, itching, burning, numbness or pain on the lip or mouth area
  • Macule Phase: the area then becomes red in reaction to the virus
  • Papule Phase: small, red bumps form and sufferers will feel throbbing pain
  • Vesicle Phase: colorless, fluid-filled blisters start to develop
  • Postule Phase: the clear liquid becomes yellow and pus forms
  • Crust Phase: a yellow crust forms on the affected area
  • Scabbing Phase: the area dries out and a reddish brown scab forms; the area may itch and burn
  • Healing Phase: the scab falls off and pain disappears; there may be some residual swelling or dry flaking