2011501614 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Acyclovir Topical

    (ay sye' kloe veer)

    WHY is this medicine prescribed?

    Acyclovir cream is used to treat cold sores (fever blisters; blisters that are caused by a virus called herpes simplex) on the face or lips. Acyclovir ointment is used to treat first outbreaks of genital herpes (a herpes virus infection that causes sores to form around the genitals and rectum from time to time) and to treat certain types of sores caused by the herpes simplex virus in people with weak immune systems. Acyclovir is in a class of antiviral medications called synthetic nucleoside analogues. It works by stopping the spread of the herpes virus in the body. Acyclovir does not cure cold sores or genital herpes, does not prevent outbreaks of these conditions, and does not stop the spread of these conditions to other people.

    HOW should this medicine be used?

    Topical acyclovir comes as a cream and an ointment to apply to the skin. Acyclovir cream is usually applied five times a day for 4 days. Acyclovir cream may be applied at any time during a cold sore outbreak, but it works best when it is applied at the very beginning of a cold sore outbreak, when there is tingling, redness, itching, or a bump but the cold sore has not yet formed. Acyclovir ointment is usually applied six times a day (usually 3 hours apart) for 7 days. It is best to begin using acyclovir ointment as soon as possible after you experience the first symptoms of infection. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use topical acyclovir exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
    Your symptoms should improve during your treatment with topical acyclovir. If your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse, call your doctor.
    Acyclovir cream and ointment are for use only on the skin. Do not let acyclovir cream or ointment get into your eyes, or inside your mouth or nose, and do not swallow the medication.
    Acyclovir cream should only be applied to skin where a cold sore has formed or seems likely to form. Do not apply acyclovir cream to any unaffected skin, or to genital herpes sores.
    Do not apply other skin medications or other types of skin products such as cosmetics, sun screen, or lip balm to the cold sore area while using acyclovir cream unless your doctor tells you that you should.
    To use acyclovir cream, follow these steps:
    1. Wash your hands.
    2. Clean and dry the area of skin where you will be applying the cream.
    3. Apply a layer of cream to cover the skin where the cold sore has formed or seems likely to form.
    4. Rub the cream into the skin until it disappears.
    5. Leave the skin where you applied the medication uncovered. Do not apply a bandage or dressing unless your doctor tells you that you should.
    6. Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any cream left on your hands.
    7. Be careful not to wash the cream off of your skin. Do not bathe, shower, or swim right after applying acyclovir cream.
    8. Avoid irritation of the cold sore area while using acyclovir cream.
    To use acyclovir ointment, follow these steps:
    1. Put on a clean finger cot or rubber glove.
    2. Apply enough ointment to cover all of your sores.
    3. Take off the finger cot or rubber glove and throw it away in a trash can that is out of reach of children.
    4. Keep the affected area(s) clean and dry, and avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing over the affected area.
    Ask your pharmacist or doctor for a copy of the manufacturer's information for the patient. Read this information before you start using acyclovir and each time you refill your prescription.

    Are there OTHER USES for this medicine?

    This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

    What SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS should I follow?

    Before using topical acyclovir,
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to acyclovir, valacyclovir (Valtrex), any other medications, or any of the ingredients in acyclovir cream or ointment. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
    • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any condition that affects your immune system such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
    • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using acyclovir, call your doctor.

    What SPECIAL DIETARY instructions should I follow?

    Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.

    What should I do IF I FORGET to take a dose?

    Apply the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not apply extra cream or ointment to make up for a missed dose.

    What SIDE EFFECTS can this medicine cause?

    Topical acyclovir may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
    • dry or cracked lips
    • flaky, peeling, or dry skin
    • burning or stinging skin
    • redness, swelling, or irritation in the place where you applied the medication
    Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
    • hives
    • rash
    • itching
    • difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • hoarseness
    Topical acyclovir may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while using this medication.
    If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch ] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

    What should I know about STORAGE and DISPOSAL of this medication?

    Keep this medication in the container it came in, with the cap on and tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Never leave this medication in your car in cold or hot weather. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

    What should I do in case of OVERDOSE?

    If someone swallows topical acyclovir, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

    What OTHER INFORMATION should I know?

    Keep all appointments with your doctor.
    Do not let anyone else use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
    It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

    Brand Names

    • Zovirax® Cream
    • Zovirax® Ointment

    Other Names

    • Acycloguanosine
    • ACV

    Acyclovir

    (ay sye' kloe veer)

    WHY is this medicine prescribed?

    Acyclovir is used to decrease pain and speed the healing of sores or blisters in people who have varicella (chickenpox), herpes zoster (shingles; a rash that can occur in people who have had chickenpox in the past), and first-time or repeat outbreaks of genital herpes (a herpes virus infection that causes sores to form around the genitals and rectum from time to time). Acyclovir is also sometimes used to prevent outbreaks of genital herpes in people who are infected with the virus. Acyclovir is in a class of antiviral medications called synthetic nucleoside analogues. It works by stopping the spread of the herpes virus in the body. Acyclovir will not cure genital herpes and may not stop the spread of genital herpes to other people.

    HOW should this medicine be used?

    Acyclovir comes as a tablet, a capsule, and a suspension (liquid) to take by mouth. It is usually taken with or without food two to five times a day for 5 to 10 days, starting as soon as possible after your symptoms begin. When acyclovir is used to prevent outbreaks of genital herpes, it is usually taken two to five times a day for up to 12 months. Take acyclovir at around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take acyclovir exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often or for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor.
    Shake the liquid well before each use to mix the medication evenly.
    Your symptoms should improve during your treatment with acyclovir. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse.
    Take acyclovir until you finish the prescription, even if you feel better. If you stop taking acyclovir too soon or skip doses, your infection may not be completely treated or may become more difficult to treat.

    Are there OTHER USES for this medicine?

    Acyclovir is also sometimes used to treat eczema herpeticum (a skin infection caused by the herpes virus) to treat and prevent herpes infections of the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and to treat oral hairy leukoplakia (condition that causes hairy white or gray-colored patches on the tongue or inside of the cheek).
    This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

    What SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS should I follow?

    Before taking acyclovir,
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to acyclovir, valacyclovir (Valtrex), any other medications, or any of the ingredients in acyclovir. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: amphotericin B (Fungizone); aminoglycoside antibiotics such as amikacin (Amikin), gentamicin (Garamycin), kanamycin (Kantrex), neomycin (Nes-RX, Neo-Fradin), paramomycin (Humatin), streptomycin, and tobramycin (Tobi, Nebcin); aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn); cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune); medications to treat HIV or AIDS such as zidovudine (Retrovir, AZT); pentamidine (NebuPent); probenecid (Benemid); sulfonamides such as sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim); tacrolimus (Prograf); and vancomycin. Many other medications may also interact with acyclovir, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
    • tell your doctor if there is a possibility you may be dehydrated from a recent illness or activity, or if you have or have ever had problems with your immune system; human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV); acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); or kidney disease.
    • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking acyclovir, call your doctor.
    • if you are taking acyclovir to treat genital herpes, you should know that genital herpes can be spread through sexual contact even if you don't have blisters or other symptoms and possibly even if you are taking acyclovir. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop the spread of genital herpes and about whether your partner(s) should receive treatment.

    What SPECIAL DIETARY instructions should I follow?

    Drink plenty of fluids while you are taking acyclovir.

    What should I do IF I FORGET to take a dose?

    Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it and take any remaining doses for that day at evenly spaced intervals. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

    What SIDE EFFECTS can this medicine cause?

    Acyclovir may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
    • upset stomach
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • dizziness
    • tiredness
    • agitation
    • pain, especially in the joints
    • hair loss
    • changes in vision
    Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
    • hives
    • rash or blisters
    • itching
    • difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • hoarseness
    • fast heartbeat
    • weakness
    • pale skin
    • difficulty sleeping
    • fever, sore throat, chills, cough, and other signs of infection
    • unusual bruising or bleeding
    • blood in the urine
    • stomach pain or cramps
    • bloody diarrhea
    • decreased urination
    • headache
    • hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
    • confusion
    • aggressive behavior
    • difficulty speaking
    • numbness, burning, or tingling in the arms or legs
    • temporary inability to move parts of your body
    • shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness
    Acyclovir may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.
    If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch ] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

    What should I know about STORAGE and DISPOSAL of this medication?

    Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

    What should I do in case of OVERDOSE?

    In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
    Symptoms of overdose may include:
    • agitation
    • seizures
    • extreme tiredness
    • loss of consciousness
    • swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • decreased urination

    What OTHER INFORMATION should I know?

    Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to check your response to acyclovir.
    Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
    It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

    Brand Names

    • Zovirax®

    Other Names

    • Acycloguanosine
    • ACV

    Acyclovir Injection

    (ay sye' kloe ver)

    WHY is this medicine prescribed?

    Your doctor has ordered acyclovir, an antiviral agent, to help treat your infection. The medication will be added to an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle or catheter placed in your vein for at least 60 minutes every 8 hours for 5 to 10 days.
    Acyclovir is used to treat
    • herpes infections of the skin, nose, and mouth in people with weak immune systems
    • herpes infections in newborn infants
    • herpes simplex encephalitis (brain infection with swelling caused by the herpes virus)
    • varicella-zoster (shingles; a rash that can occur in people who have had chickenpox in the past) in people with weak immune systems
    • the first outbreak of a genital herpes infection (a herpes virus infection that causes sores to form around the genitals and rectum from time to time)
    Acyclovir is in a class of antiviral medications known as synthetic nucleoside analogues. It works by stopping the spread of the herpes virus in the body. Acyclovir will not cure genital herpes and may not stop the spread of genital herpes to other people. This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
    This medication is most effective if started soon after the first signs of infection appear.
    Your symptoms should improve during your treatment with acyclovir. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse.
    Your health care provider (doctor, nurse, or pharmacist) may measure the effectiveness and side effects of your treatment using laboratory tests and physical examinations. It is important to keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. The length of treatment depends on how your infection and symptoms respond to the medication.

    What SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS should I follow?

    Before using acyclovir,
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to acyclovir, valacyclovir (Valtrex), or any other medications.
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: amphotericin B (Fungizone); aminoglycoside antibiotics such as amikacin (Amikin), gentamicin (Garamycin), kanamycin (Kantrex), neomycin (Nes-RX, Neo-Fradin), paramomycin (Humatin), streptomycin, and tobramycin (Tobi, Nebcin); aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn); cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune); interferon; medications to treat HIV or AIDS such as zidovudine (Retrovir); methotrexate, pentamidine (NebuPent); probenecid (Benemid); sulfonamides such as sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprin (Bactrim); tacrolimus (Prograf); and vancomycin (Vancocin). Many other medications may also interact with acyclovir, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
    • tell your doctor if there is a possibility that you may be dehydrated from a recent illness or activity, or if you have or have ever had problems with your immune system; human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV); acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); or kidney, liver, or nervous system disease.
    • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking acyclovir, call your doctor.
    • if you are using acyclovir to treat genital herpes, you should know that genital herpes can be spread through sexual contact even if you don't have blisters or other symptoms and possibly even if you are using acyclovir. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop the spread of genital herpes and about whether your partner(s) should receive treatment.
    • be sure to drink plenty of fluids during your treatment with acyclovir.

    HOW should this medicine be used?

    Before you use acyclovir, look at the solution closely. It should be clear and free of floating material. Gently squeeze the bag or observe the solution container to make sure there are no leaks. Do not use the solution if it is discolored, if it contains particles, or if the bag or container leaks. Use a new solution, but show the damaged one to your health care provider.
    It is important that you use your medication exactly as directed. Do not stop your therapy on your own or skip doses for any reason because your infection could worsen and result in hospitalization or could become more difficult to treat. Do not change your dosing schedule without talking to your health care provider. Your health care provider may tell you to stop your infusion if you have a mechanical problem (such as a blockage in the tubing, needle, or catheter). If you have to stop an infusion, call your health care provider immediately so your therapy can continue.

    What SIDE EFFECTS can this medicine cause?

    Acyclovir may cause side effects. Tell your health care provider if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
    • headache
    • upset stomach
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • loss of appetite
    • dizziness
    • hair loss
    • muscle or joint pain
    • vision problems
    Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your health care provider immediately:
    • rash or blisters
    • itching
    • hives
    • difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • extreme tiredness
    • confusion
    • hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that are not really there)
    • agitation
    • shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
    • seizures
    • unusual bleeding or bruising
    • difficulty speaking
    • numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
    • temporary inability to move part of your body
    • stomach pain or cramps
    • bloody diarrhea
    • bloody urine
    • fever
    Acyclovir may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while using this medication.
    If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch ] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

    What should I know about STORAGE and DISPOSAL of this medication?

    Your health care provider will probably tell you to store your medication at room temperature. Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand how to store your medication properly. Throw away any medication that is expired or no longer needed. Talk to your health care provider about the proper disposal of your medication.
    Keep your supplies in a clean, dry place when you are not using them, and keep all medications and supplies out of reach of children. Your health care provider will tell you how to throw away used needles, syringes, tubing, and containers to avoid accidental injury.

    What should I do in case of OVERDOSE?

    In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
    Symptoms of overdose may include:
    • agitation
    • seizures
    • extreme tiredness
    • loss of consciousness
    • swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
    • decrease in urination

    What are the SIGNS OF AN INFECTION?

    If you are receiving acyclovir in your vein, you need to know the symptoms of a catheter-related infection (an infection where the needle enters your vein). If you experience any of these symptoms near your intravenous catheter, tell your health care provider as soon as possible:
    • tenderness
    • warmth
    • irritation
    • drainage
    • redness
    • swelling
    • pain

    Brand Names

    • Zovirax®

    Other Names

    • Acycloguanosine
    • ACV
  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.