Close up of hand spreading white Acyclovir Cream on another hand.
Herpes & Cold Sores

What You Didn’t Know About Acyclovir for Herpes

By Lizzie De La Cruz
Acyclovir is an antiviral drug that comes in pill and cream forms, and is very effective at treating genital and oral herpes (also sometimes called cold sores). While it won’t cure herpes infections, Acyclovir can ease the symptoms, duration, and severity of herpes outbreaks. What you may not know is that Acyclovir can also help treat a number of other viral infections. Here are four uses for Acyclovir creams that might surprise you.

4 surprising uses for Acyclovir

Did you know chickenpox is a type of herpes virus? Acyclovir can help reduce the duration and severity of a chicken pox infection. The trick is to take Acyclovir during the first 24 hours. It is a safe treatment that is best proven to help with normal cases of chickenpox. It is yet to be proven whether Acyclovir reduces complications from chickenpox.
Anyone who has gotten chickenpox as children can develop shingles as an adult (this is one reason why the chickenpox vaccine is so important!). Much like the HSV-1 and 2 that cause genital and oral herpes, the chickenpox virus never fully leaves your body, but will lie dormant along nerve cells. During times of stress or lowered immunity, it’s possible for this virus to awaken and cause an outbreak of shingles—painful blisters often found on the side of the torso or face. Acyclovir can be used to shorten the length and severity of these outbreaks. It is most effective when it is taken as soon as possible after the rash appears.
Genital Herpes
Acyclovir helps with a genital herpes outbreak in a couple of ways. First, it can help to ease the severity and duration of an outbreak when it is taken as quickly as possible after an outbreak occurs. Second, it can help to stop the spread of the herpes virus to other areas in the body. As with shingles and chickenpox, Acyclovir will not eliminate the virus from your body, but it will help to reduce symptoms and can help reduce your chances of passing the virus to your partners.
Cold Sores
Acyclovir can be used to soothe the pain, itching, and burning of cold sores, to help shorten the duration of the cold sore outbreak, and to prevent the spread of the virus to other areas. Acyclovir Cream can be very effective as you are applying the medication directly to the sore itself.
If you are experiencing symptoms of any of these viruses, you can ask your doctor about getting prescribed Acyclovir.

What are acyclovir creams?

Acyclovir creams are topical medicated creams that are most often used to treat cold sores, fever blisters, and other things like that. These creams can speed up the healing process of sores and symptoms like itching, burning, tingling, and pain. Using acyclovir regularly can reduce your number of outbreaks and help your immune system keep the virus suppressed.

How to use acyclovir creams

As you should do with any medication you get from your pharmacist, read the patient information leaflet given by your pharmacist. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor. This medication is best used at the first sign of infection. Gently apply the cream to the area as directed by your doctor. Cover all affected areas. This cream is for external use only and should not be placed inside the eyes, nose, mouth, or genitalia. If you happen to get any of the medication in those areas, flush with lots of water. Acyclovir creams are not to be used longer than prescribed. 

Side effects of acyclovir creams

Dry cracked lips, burning, stinging, and flaky skin are all common side effects of acyclovir creams, but if these symptoms persist, tell your pharmacist or doctor. You should not experience extreme side effects while using this medication. Though serious allergic reactions to the drug are rare, if such a thing were to happen to you, seek medical attention immediately. 


Acyclovir creams can be extremely harmful if swallowed. If someone has overdosed on this product and is experiencing troublesome symptoms, such as loss of consciousness or trouble breathing, immediately call 911 or call the Poison Control Centre right away. Do not share this medication with others as it can spread the infection. 
Acyclovir creams can be wonderful for treating cold sores and other skin issues of this nature. The itching and burning that comes from the sores can be very distracting and hard to deal with. Just remember that while this medication can help speed up the healing process of your sores, it does not prevent the spread of the infection. Please make sure you consult your doctor if you have any questions.

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