Docosanol - Topical
Common Brand Name(s): Abreva
Important: How To Use This Information
This is a summary and does NOT have all possible information about this product. This information does not assure that this product is safe, effective, or appropriate for you. This information is not individual medical advice and does not substitute for the advice of your health care professional. Always ask your health care professional for complete information about this product and your specific health needs.
Docosanol is used to treat "cold sores/fever blisters" (herpes labialis). It can speed up healing of the sores and decrease symptoms (such as tingling, pain, burning, itching). It works by blocking the virus that causes the cold sores (herpes simplex) from entering the healthy skin cells and growing in number. This medication does not cure herpes and does not prevent passing the infection to someone else. It does not prevent a future occurrence.
Do not use this medication to treat canker sores (sores found commonly in the mouth), shingles, or genital herpes.
How To Use
Follow all directions on the product package, or use as directed by your doctor. Use this medication at the first signs of a cold sore (such as tingling, burning, redness, or a bump). Wash and dry your hands before applying the medication. Clean and dry the affected areas. Apply a thin layer of medication to completely cover the area of the cold sore or the area of tingling/itching/redness/swelling and rub in gently, usually 5 times a day every 3-4 hours, or as directed by your doctor. Wash your hands with soap and water after applying. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Apply to skin only. Do not apply this medication in or near the eyes since this medication can irritate the eyes. If you do get medication in your eyes, flush with plenty of water. Do not apply inside the mouth or nose.
Remove any cosmetics from the affected area before applying. You may apply cosmetics after applying but use a separate applicator (such as a disposable cotton swab) on infected areas to prevent spreading the infection. If you accidentally wipe off the medication, reapply as soon as possible.
Dosage is based on your medical condition, type of infection, and response to treatment. Do not use this drug more often or for longer than directed.
Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. This medication works best when the amount of drug absorbed by the skin stays at a constant level. Use this drug at evenly spaced intervals. To help you remember, use it at the same times each day.
Cold sores (herpes) can spread easily. Docosanol does not prevent the spread of herpes. Avoid close physical contact with others (such as kissing) during an outbreak until the cold sores have completely healed. Also, try not to touch the cold sore, and wash your hands if you do touch the cold sore.
Stop using this medication and tell your doctor if your cold sores get worse or last for more than 10 days.
Redness or swelling may occur. If any of these effects last or get worse, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
If your doctor has directed you to use this medication, remember that your doctor has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including:
- itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat)
- severe dizziness
- trouble breathing
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
In the US -
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch.
In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
Before using docosanol, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.
Drug interactions may change how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. This document does not contain all possible drug interactions. Keep a list of all the products you use (including prescription/nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your doctor's approval.
This medicine may be harmful if swallowed. If someone has overdosed and has serious symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, call a poison control center right away. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.
Do not share this medication with others. Doing so may spread the infection.
Cold sore outbreaks can be caused by many factors such as stress, hormonal changes (such as pregnancy, menstrual period), injury/surgery on the mouth (such as dental work), tiredness, sunlight, cold weather, or fever/cold/flu.
If you miss a dose, use it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose. Use your next dose at the regular time. Do not double the dose to catch up.
Store at room temperature. Protect from freezing. If you have any questions about storage, ask your pharmacist. Keep all medications away from children and pets.
Do not flush medications down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist or local waste disposal company.
Information last revised January 2023.
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