Aciclovir (cream)

Sounds like 'ay-SYE-kloe-vir'

Aciclovir cream is used to treat viral infection such as cold sores. Find out how to apply it safely and possible side effects. Aciclovir cream is also called Viraban, Viratac or Zovirax.

On this page, you will find information on:

Brands of aciclovir cream

Aciclovir cream is also known as: 
  • Aciclovir (Ethics)®
  • Cold Sore Relief®
  • Viraban®
  • Viratac®
  • Zovirax®
  • Acyclovir

What is aciclovir cream?

Aciclovir cream is used to treat cold sores on the lips and face. Cold sores are caused by Herpes simplex virus infection. Aciclovir cream does not kill the virus and get rid of it from your body, but it does prevent the virus from multiplying. It reduces the severity and duration of the cold sore symptoms when they appear. Studies have found that aciclovir cream reduces pain and symptoms of cold sores by approximately half a day. The cream does not prevent cold sores from coming back. Read more about cold sores.

How to apply aciclovir cream

Aciclovir cream works best if it is applied to the cold sore as soon as you get the early tingling feeling, before the blisters appear. This may help shorten the duration of the sore or prevent it from getting worse. Aciclovir cream can also be started later, after the blisters appear.  You must be apply the cream several times per day and continue to use it for five days. If healing has not occurred, it can be used for up to 10 days. If symptoms continue for longer than 10 days, see your doctor.

  • Amount: Apply a thin layer of cream to the affected area, including the outer edges of the cold sore blisters (if present).
  • How often: Use the cream five times a day every four hours during the day (suggested times are 7 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm and 11 pm). Continue to use the cream for five days.
  • Dab the cream on to the area rather than rubbing it in. This will minimise any damage to the blisters, which could cause pain and spread the virus around.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to use the cream, apply it as soon as you remember and then continue using it again at your usual times.
  • Avoid spreading the infection: Remember to wash and dry your hands before and after using aciclovir cream, to prevent spreading any infection. It is important to avoid unnecessary touching or rubbing of the area, and not to use a towel on the area if possible, to prevent spreading to other areas.

Note: aciclovir cream is not intended for use inside your mouth or near your eyes. 

Precautions – before using aciclovir cream

  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you have a weakened immune system such as HIV or AIDS? (you may need additional antiviral treatment)

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor before you start using aciclovir cream. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions or it can only be used with extra care.

Side effects

Like all medicines, aciclovir cream can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. The cream can cause burning, stinging, itching, redness, drying and flaking at the area where it is applied. These side effects are usually mild and are temporary – it will pass. If it continues for a few days, tell your doctor or pharmacist. If you notice sudden swelling of the mouth and lips, or a rash appearing, tell your doctor immediately.

Learn more

Zovirax Colds Sore Cream Medsafe Consumer Information


  1. Valaciclovir – a first line antiviral medicine BPAC, 2016
  2. Aciclovir (topical) New Zealand Formulary
  3. Antiviral preparations New Zealand Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 15 Apr 2019