What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Acyclovir for a Cold Sore?

Christina Edwards

Acycovir is one of the most common prescription remedies for a cold sore, and like any medication, it has its pros and cons. It is very effective at getting rid of and preventing cold sores, but only if it is used a short time after symptoms appear. This treatment is only available by prescription, but many health insurance plans will cover it. Also, patients do not need to worry about many side effects or drug interactions when taking acyclovir for a cold sore, and it is considered to be safe for young children to use.

Applying certain types of mouthwash directly to a cold sore may promote faster healing of the lesion.
Applying certain types of mouthwash directly to a cold sore may promote faster healing of the lesion.

When taking acyclovir, a patient's symptoms will often clear up within a few days. Some studies also have shown this medication can help prevent frequent cold sore outbreaks, if taken daily. Since it helps stop viral shedding, or reproduction, acyclovir can also help prevent the spread of the virus from one person to another.

Acyclovir may be very expensive for those who do not have prescription drug coverage as a part of their health insurance plans.
Acyclovir may be very expensive for those who do not have prescription drug coverage as a part of their health insurance plans.

For acyclovir for a cold sore to be effective, however, it must be taken as soon as possible. Most medical professionals recommend that patients begin using this medication no more than three days after symptoms develop. If a patient begins taking it after that point, then it may take much longer for the cold sore to disappear.

Acyclovir side effects may include nausea.
Acyclovir side effects may include nausea.

In most areas, acyclovir is only legally available by prescription, which means that an individual visit a medical professional to get it. He must then fill the prescription at a pharmacy. Besides the cost of visiting the healthcare provider, the cost of the medication is often quite expensive. These costs, however, are often covered by health insurance plans. Acyclovir is also considered to be a relatively safe medication, even for small children.

When taking acyclovir, a patient's symptoms will often clear up within a few days.
When taking acyclovir, a patient's symptoms will often clear up within a few days.

There are very few side effects to this drug, and they are typically mild, although they can be uncomfortable. These side effects can vary depending on what type of acyclovir a patient uses: a topical medication or an oral one. Topical ointments containing this compound can cause redness, itching, burning, or stinging in the area. Oral pills, on the other hand, can cause headaches and mild gastrointestinal problems, like nausea and vomiting.

Oral pills that contain acyclovir may cause headaches as a side effect.
Oral pills that contain acyclovir may cause headaches as a side effect.

There are also very few dangerous drug interactions with this medication. Individuals taking certain epilepsy medications, like phenytoin or fosphenytoin, should consult a medical professional before using acyclovir. Also, certain medications used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS may also cause a dangerous reaction when mixed with this medication.

Topical acyclovir ointments may cause the skin around the cold sore to itch, burn and sting.
Topical acyclovir ointments may cause the skin around the cold sore to itch, burn and sting.

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Discussion Comments

ZipLine

Has anyone experienced hair loss or hair thinning from acyclovir? I've been taking it for the past three months. It does prevent cold sores, but I've developed hair loss.

burcidi

@SarahGen-- That's true but acyclovir is usually given to women who have genital herpes to avoid an outbreak during birth, because that would transmit the virus to the baby. I don't think I would take the risk of using an anti-viral medication during pregnancy just for a cold sore.

SarahGen

One great thing about acyclovir cold sore treatment is that it can be taken during pregnancy.

I had terrible cold sore breakouts when I was pregnant. I don't know why but I think the hormonal changes and changes with my immune system made me more vulnerable to cold sores. I was miserable with three large cold sores on my lips when I saw my doctor and found out that I can take acyclovir. It prevented new breakouts for the rest of my pregnancy, so I love this medication.

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