In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for acyclovir, trade name ZoviraxTM

What it’s for & How to take

Acyclovir is used to treat infections caused by the herpes simplex or the herpes zoster virus. The herpes simplex virus presents as cold sores around your mouth, genitals, or sometimes other areas of your body such as your hands or eyes. The herpes zoster virus presents as either chickenpox or shingles.

Acyclovir is used to decrease the severity and duration of a virus outbreak. This medication is not a cure for herpes. These viruses live in our body. When your immune system is weakened, either through stress, sickness or some other reason, the virus will grow and manifest as an outbreak.

This medication will help sores heal faster, keeps new sores from forming and may help reduce how long the pain or itching will last. Acyclovir may also help prevent a herpes outbreak from spreading to another part of the body in a patient with a weak immune system.

This medication is also used to suppress outbreaks in people who have had recurrent infections. When used to suppress outbreaks, acyclovir is taken in a smaller dose on a regular daily schedule.

Your dose is based on your specific type of outbreak or suppression treatment. This medication is prescribed to be taken anywhere from 2-5 times daily, with or without food. When taking acyclovir 5 times daily, take your dose at evenly spaced intervals. The medication works best when a constant level is maintained in the body. Drink a full glass of water with each dose of acyclovir, unless your doctor has instructed you not to.

Acyclovir works best when started at the first sign of an outbreak. Finish your cycle of medication unless directed by your physician to do otherwise. If your condition does not improve or worsens, notify your doctor.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip it and continue with your normal dose time. Do not take a double dose to make up the missed dose.

Warnings & Cautions

  • Acyclovir does not protect against the spread of genital herpes. Refrain from sexual contact during an outbreak. Genital herpes can be passed to your partner during sexual activity even when you are not experiencing any symptoms. Always use an effective barrier method, such as a condom or dental dam, during all sexual activity. Discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • The elderly may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug. Your kidneys may not remove this medication from your body very quickly. Pay close attention to urinary issues such as color and volume and notify your doctor if you notice any changes from your normal pattern. Also, notify your doctor if you experience any drowsiness, confusion, or hallucinations.
  • Let your pharmacist or doctor know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before taking this medication.
  • This medication may make you dizzy, drowsy, or blur your vision. Do not drive or do any activity that requires focus and attention until you are sure you can do them safely. Limit alcoholic beverages while taking acyclovir.

Interactions & Side Effects

  • Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if acyclovir safe for you to take.
  • Avoid dangerous drug interactions. Tell your pharmacist or doctor all the other medication you are taking, including over the counter supplements, even if you don’t take them very often.
  • Ask your doctor if this medication is safe to take with your current health conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any kidney problems or any condition related to a decreased immune system.
  • While taking acyclovir, you may feel some nausea, diarrhea, a little tiredness, possibly some confusion and maybe a headache. If these or any other unwanted side effects persist, contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about it with them.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any extreme tiredness, mental and mood changes, abnormal heartbeat, severe abdominal pain, vision changes or seizures.

If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Updated 7/20