Recurrent herpes simplex labialis is associated with mild morbidity, but remains a significant problem for people with frequent and/or severe recurrences. Both topical and peroral episodic antiviral treatments of recurrences are modestly effective at reducing the duration of signs and symptoms. Recent studies with high-dose, short-course valaciclovir suggest that maximum benefit from antiviral therapy may be achieved with as little as 1 day of treatment. Topical steroids may be useful in combination with an antiviral agent, but more needs to be learnt about the appropriate strength and duration of steroid therapy before a general recommendation can be made. Selected subgroups of patients are candidates for prophylactic treatment with perorally administered nucleoside antiviral agents. Prophylaxis with topical agents is not effective.