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Acyclovir topical Side Effects

In Summary

Commonly reported side effects of acyclovir topical include: burning sensation of skin, stinging of the skin, mild local discomfort, and mild pain. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.

For the Consumer

Applies to acyclovir topical: topical cream, topical ointment

In addition to its needed effects, some unwanted effects may be caused by acyclovir topical. In the event that any of these side effects do occur, they may require medical attention.

Minor Side Effects

Some of the side effects that can occur with acyclovir topical may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

More common:
  • Mild pain, burning, or stinging
Less common:
  • Itching
  • Itching, stinging, or redness of the genital area
  • skin rash

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to acyclovir topical: topical cream, topical ointment


Acyclovir topical has been generally well tolerated and adverse effects are uncommon.[Ref]


Local side effects associated with the ointment have included mild pain (including transient stinging and burning) and local pruritus. Dryness of skin, flakiness of skin, dry lips, cracked lips, burning skin, pruritus, and stinging on skin have been reported at the site of topical application in less than 1% of patients using acyclovir topical cream. Edema and/or pain at the application site have been reported during postmarketing experience with acyclovir topical ointment. The pain is generally due to manipulation of the herpetic lesions rather than a reaction to the drug itself. Application site reactions (including signs and symptoms of inflammation) have been reported during postmarketing experience with acyclovir topical cream.[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects have included rash and pruritus during postmarketing experience with acyclovir topical ointment. Contact dermatitis and eczema have been reported during postmarketing experience with acyclovir topical cream.[Ref]


Hypersensitivity side effects have included angioedema and anaphylaxis during postmarketing experience with acyclovir topical cream.


1. "Product Information. Zovirax (acyclovir)." Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc, Morgantown, WV.

2. Gnann JW Jr, Barton NH, Whitley RJ "Acyclovir: mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, safety and clinical applications." Pharmacotherapy 3 (1983): 275-83

3. Reichman RC, Badger GJ, Guinan ME, Nahmias AJ, Keeney RE, Davis LG, Ashikaga T, Dolin R "Topically administered acyclovir in the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex genitalis: a controlled trial." J Infect Dis 147 (1983): 336-40

4. Yeo JM, Fiddian AP "Acyclovir in the management of herpes labialis." J Antimicrob Chemother 12 Suppl B (1983): 95-103

5. Fiddian AP, Kinghorn GR, Goldmeier D, Rees E, Rodin P, Thin RN, de Konig GA "Topical acyclovir in the treatment of genital herpes: a comparison with systemic therapy." J Antimicrob Chemother 12 Suppl B (1983): 67-77

6. Corey L, Benedetti J, Critchlow C, Mertz G, Douglas J, Fife K, Fahnlander A, Remington ML, Winter C, Dragavon J "Treatment of primary first-episode genital herpes simplex virus infections with acyclovir: results of topical, intravenous and oral therapy." J Antimicrob Chemother 12 Suppl B (1983): 79-88

7. Wagstaff AJ, Faulds D, Goa KL "Aciclovir: a reappraisal of its antiviral activity, pharmacokinetic properties and therapeutic efficacy." Drugs 47 (1994): 153-205

8. Corey L, Nahmias AJ, Guinan ME, Benedetti JK, Critchlow CW, Holmes KK "A trial of topical acyclovir in genital herpes simplex virus infections." N Engl J Med 306 (1982): 1313-9

9. Koch P "No evidence of contact sensitization to acyclovir in acute dermatitis of the lips following local application of zovirax cream." Contact Dermatitis 33 (1995): 255-7

10. Gola M, Francalanci S, Brusi C, Lombardi P, Sertoli A "Contact sensitization to acyclovir." Contact Dermatitis 20 (1989): 394-5

Not all side effects for acyclovir topical may be reported. You should always consult a doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice. Side effects can be reported to the FDA here.

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