What is Zovirax?

Zovirax (acyclovir) is a medication to treat infections caused by the herpes virus. The herpes virus can cause cold sores, lesions in the genitals (herpes genitalis), shingles and chicken pox. When the drug is taken promptly it can decrease the duration of infection and decrease the intensity of symptoms. Unfortunately, acyclovir does not cure the herpes virus. Acyclovir is available as a tablet, capsule and a suspension. It can be used to treat an acute outbreak of herpes infection or it can be taken regularly to prevent future infections.

What is dose of Zovirax?

Each tablet or capsule of acyclovir contains 200 mg of the active drug. Acyclovir is also available in 400 mg and 800 mg tablets/capsules. For most people a dose of 200-400 mg fives times a day is adequate. The 800 mg tablet is used for treatment of more severe herpes infections.

What is Zovirax used to treat?

Acyclovir is used to treat infections caused by the herpes virus. This includes treatment of: shingles (herpes zoster), genital herpes, herpes sores, and chicken pox. Acyclovir can be used to treat both the initial herpes infection and be used as a prophylactic to prevent recurrent herpes infections. Acyclovir does not work for the common cold or the flu virus.

How does Zovirax work?

Acyclovir is an antiviral agent; once inside the organism it inhibits certain enzymes that are required for multiplication of the virus. The drug decreases the pain and/or itching sensation, helps with faster healing of the sores and prevents new sores from developing. Further, in individuals with a weak immune system, acyclovir reduces the ability of the virus to spread to other parts of the body.

What are side effects of acyclovir (Zovirax)?

Acyclovir is a relatively safe drug. A few individuals may develop the following mild side effects: nausea, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, fatigue, light headed sensation, swelling of the hands and feet, and diarrhea. In most cases, these side effects are transient and subside over the next few days. However, if they persist you should inform your doctor.

Does Zovirax have any serious side effects?

Rarely acyclovir may produce the following serious side effects:

If after taking acyclovir you develop the following features, you should see your doctor right away:
Can Zovirax cause an allergic reaction?

Like all drugs, there is potential for acyclovir to cause an allergic reaction but it is very rare. Nevertheless, if you develop a rash, swelling of the face, or shortness of breath, you should stop using the drug and seek immediate medical attention.

What are the precautions I should take when taking Zovirax?

  1. Before taking acyclovir, tell your pharmacist or doctor if you are allergic to any ingredients in acyclovir or Valacyclovir. Valacyclovir is very similar to acyclovir but has a longer duration of action.
  2. If you have kidney problems or have had a kidney transplant you should tell your doctor because the dose of acyclovir may need to be adjusted.
  3. In rare cases, acyclovir can make you lightheaded or dizzy. In such cases do not drive or use machinery that requires you to be alert.
  4. Do not consume excess alcohol when taking acyclovir
  5. If you plan to have surgery, tell your doctor about any prior herpes outbreak. The stress of surgery can sometimes trigger recurrence of herpes and thus you will need to be pre-treated with acyclovir.
  6. Since acyclovir does pass through breast milk it is best avoid it at this time
Can Zovirax be taken during pregnancy?

Yes, the drug is relatively safe during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have herpes you need to be treated otherwise the virus can be passed on to the infant.

How soon do I see the benefits?

If you take acyclovir within the first 24 hours after the symptoms appear, then the response is excellent. The major reason why people do not see a good response is because they take the drug too late. Treatment with acyclovir should be started as soon you develop blister, tingling or burning pain. Acyclovir does not work well when it is taken 24-48 hours after the onset of symptoms. If you take it promptly, you will not only see a reduction in symptoms but you will also see a decrease in the duration of the infection.

How do I take Zovirax?
  1. Acyclovir is taken 3-5 times a day. Take one tablet with a glass of water and remain hydrated for the rest of the day. Drinking water ensures that your kidneys remain functional and also excrete the drug. If you develop nausea, then you may take the pill with food.
  1. Do not alter the dose of acyclovir or take it for a longer time than recommended by your healthcare provider. Follow the instruction provided by the pharmacist and read the label.
  2. If you are taking the solution of acyclovir, shake the bottle well before you measure the dose on a proper medical spoon. Do not use a home spoon because this does not accurately measure the correct dose. Each teaspoon contains 5 ml of the drug or 200 mg of acyclovir.
  3. Store acyclovir at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What else should I do when I have a herpes infection?
  1. Keep the sores clean and dry. If you touch the sore, always wash you hands.
  2. If you have genital herpes, wear loose undergarments to prevent excess warmth, humidity and irritation.
  3. Lesions caused by herpes viruses should be kept as clean and dry as possible. Wearing loose clothing may help to prevent irritation of the lesions.
  4. Herpes infections can be transmitted to others so avoid skin contact with others.
  5. You should complete the course of treatment even if the symptoms disappear early. Do not make it a habit of skipping any dose, do not alter the dose and do not discontinue acyclovir without first speaking to your healthcare provider.
Can Zovirax prevent transmission of genital herpes?

No it does not. If you have genital herpes, it is best to refrain from sex until the lesions have healed. If you do plan to have sex, always used a condom or a dental dam during sex. You can transmit herpes to your partner even if you don’t have symptoms.

Can acyclovir interact with other medications?

There is always a risk of interaction with other agents. Thus, before you are prescribed acyclovir, you should always tell your doctor about all other medications, supplement and herbs that you take. Drugs that may interact with acyclovir include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen.

Can I combine Zovirax with other antiviral medications?

In general you should not combine medications unless approved by your doctor. Even though Valacyclovir is similar to acyclovir, you should not take it at the same time.

What happens if I miss a dose of acyclovir?

If you forget to take a dose of acyclovir and it is within a few hours, then you can take the dose. However, if you remember later and it is close to the next dose, do not double the dose. Doubling the dose increases the risk of adverse effects and is also expensive.

Can I overdose with Zovirax?

Overdose is possible with any medication and the same applies to acyclovir. If you have taken more than the prescribed dose and develop symptoms like blurred vision, seizure or loss of consciousness seek immediate medical attention.

How should I store Zovirax?

Acyclovir should be stored at room temperate away from moisture, heat and light. Keep the medication away from the reach of any child. Read the label and if it is expired do not flush it down the toiler but take it back to your pharmacist.

Is there generic acyclovir available?

Yes, just ask the pharmacist for the generic version. It is cheaper and just as effective as the brand name drug.