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Acyclovir Cream

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

March 31, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

What is Acyclovir Cream?

If you are experiencing cold sores, you want relief from your symptoms and to get over your outbreak as quickly as possible. Acyclovir cream can help, but you may have a lot of questions. 

How long does it take for acyclovir cream to work? Can you get acyclovir cream over the counter? Is there a way to get acyclovir cream online?

We’re going to answer all these questions and more, so read on to learn more about acyclovir cream and whether it might be right for you.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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What Does Acyclovir Cream Do?

Acyclovir cream (also sold under the brand name of Zovirax) treats cold sores. It can help reduce pain and shorten the duration of the outbreak. Acyclovir cream does not cure herpes (the virus that causes cold sores), prevent outbreaks, or prevent you from spreading the herpes virus to others. Even after using acyclovir cream, you can spread the herpes virus to others.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). While cold sores eventually go away, there is no cure for herpes. Since you will always have the herpes virus, you may have cold sore outbreaks off and on for the rest of your life.

Cold sores usually clear up within one to three weeks without treatment and a little faster with acyclovir cream. Symptoms of cold sores include:

  • Itching and tingling, usually about a day before a painful small hard spot appears and blisters erupt.
  • Small fluid-filled blisters, typically around your lips and mouth. Cold sores may also appear on your cheeks, on your nose, or in your mouth.
  • Oozing and crusting. Herpes is most contagious when cold sore blisters are oozing, so it is especially important to take precautions not to spread it to others during this stage of herpes.

Read: How Long Are Cold Sores Contagious?


Acyclovir Cream Side Effects

Side effects of acyclovir cream are usually mild and may include:

  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Mild pain
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Skin rash
  • Cracked or dry lips
  • Dry, peeling, or flaky skin
  • Swelling
  • Irritation

Acyclovir Cream Precautions

While acyclovir cream is generally safe, you should always tell your doctor about your medical history and any medications you take, especially:

  • If you are allergic to acyclovir, valacyclovir (Valtrex), or any other medications
  • If you have any condition that affects your immune system, like HIV or AIDS
  • If you are nursing, pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant

Always tell your doctor about any medications you take, including vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications. Be especially sure to mention any of the following:

  • Dichlorphenamide
  • Leflunomide
  • Teriflunomide
  • Nitisinone
  • Foscarnet
  • Phenytoin
  • Fosphenytoin
  • Valproic Acid

Acyclovir Cream Dosage

Always follow your doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions when using acyclovir cream. Typically, you will apply it 4 to 6 times a day for up to 10 days. Here is the typical way you should use acyclovir cream:

  • Wash your hands and put on gloves to avoid spreading the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.
  • Clean and dry the cold sore and the area around it.
  • Apply a layer of cream where the cold sore has formed or seems to be forming.
  • Rub the cream into your skin until it is completely absorbed.
  • Leave the area uncovered. Do not use a bandage unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Remove your gloves and wash your hands again.
  • Do not shower, bathe, swim, or do anything else that may wash the cream off your skin right after applying it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need a Prescription for Acyclovir Cream?

Yes, you do need a prescription for acyclovir cream. It is not available over the counter.

How Long Does It Take for Acyclovir Cream to Work?

Acyclovir cream may start to relieve some of your symptoms, such as pain, burning, tingling, or itching, as soon as the first dose. On average, acyclovir cream will reduce the length of your outbreak by about half a day.


Read: How Long Does a Herpes Outbreak Last?


How Long Should I Use Acyclovir Cream?

Always follow your doctor’s directions about how long to use acyclovir cream. Typically, you will apply it 5 times a day for 4 days. Do not stop using it sooner or keep using it longer than your doctor or pharmacist tells you.

Does Acyclovir Speed Up Healing?

Yes. On average, using acyclovir will help your cold sore go away about half a day sooner than it would without treatment, although your results may vary.

Does Acyclovir Cream Cure Cold Sores?

While acyclovir cream is used to treat cold sores, it does not cure the underlying herpes virus. Even during and after treatment with acyclovir cream, you may spread herpes to others, and you may have recurring bouts of cold sores.


Read: How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get Acyclovir Cream Online

Since acyclovir cream requires a prescription, you cannot order it online and have it sent to your door. However, there is a way to get acyclovir cream online without going to your doctor’s office.

At PlushCare, you can have a video or phone appointment with a licensed doctor. If they think acyclovir is right for you, they can send an electronic prescription to your pharmacy, where you can pick it up when it is ready.

To get started with PlushCare, just click here or download the PlushCare App. You could get an acyclovir cream prescription and relief from your cold sore symptoms as soon as today.


Read More About Acyclovir Cream


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Oral Herpes. Accessed on March 29, 2021 at
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/herpes-hsv1-and-hsv2/oral-herpes

Mayo Clinic. Acyclovir (Topical Route). Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/acyclovir-topical-route/proper-use/drg-20061579

MedlinePlus. Acyclovir Topical. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a606001.html

National Institutes of Health. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Acyclovir Cream for Treatment of Herpes Simplex Labialis: Results of Two Randomized, Double-Blind, Vehicle-Controlled, Multicenter Clinical Trials. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC127288/

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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