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Zovirax cold sore cream

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Zovirax cold sore cream is a prescription antiviral cream used to treat cold sores on the face and lips. The active ingredient is an antiviral medication called acyclovir, which interferes with how the virus that causes cold sores replicates, making it easier for your immune system to fight it off. It comes as either a tube or a pump. It is best applied at the early stages of a cold sore outbreak, where it helps to prevent a cold sore from fully developing. It may also treat and speed up the healing of a cold sore that has already developed.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Zovirax cold sore cream can be used in both children and adults. You may have had a cold sore before. If so, you can recognize the tingling or burning sensation and apply the cream, or it may be the first time you’ve had one. Cold sores are an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once you’ve had contact with the virus, it remains dormant in nerve cells in your body and may flare up from time to time. There is no treatment to completely eradicate it. However, many people do begin to recognize their triggers for a cold sore and can try to avoid them. Common ones include stress and exposure to the cold or sun. Unfortunately, acyclovir can only treat the symptoms of a cold sore and reduce how long you have it, it cannot stop you from getting more in the future.

How do I apply it?

Treatment with Zovirax cold sore cream is best started at the early stages of a cold sore outbreak. A tingling, itching, or burning sensation around the lips identifies this. If you have had cold sores before, this is usually in the same area as previous ones. Zovirax cold sore cream may also be applied to a fully developed cold sore when a blister or crust appears. Applied at this stage, Zovirax helps the cold sore heal faster and relieves discomfort. It should be applied to the affected area five times a day (at roughly four-hour intervals) for at least four days. It may be used for up to a maximum of 10 days. Note that washing your hands before and after applying the cream is important to avoid spreading the infection. If your cold sore has not fully gone, you have a cluster of many, or you’re getting them often, do book a return visit to see your doctor.

Are there any side effects?

Cold sores are common, and Zovirax cold sore cream is well-tolerated in most. Some Zovirax cold sore cream ingredients may cause sensitivity or irritation in some people. Symptoms indicating this include burning or stinging and redness or dryness of the skin. If this happens, stop using the cream and seek medical advice.

Is it for everyone?

Zovirax cold sore cream should not be used by people who are immunocompromised, where you have an immune system weakened by a medical condition or medication. It should not be used if you are allergic to acyclovir, valacyclovir, or any ingredient listed in the medication. You should avoid applying the cream to your eyes or inside your mouth.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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