Antiviral medicines can be taken by mouth (orally), given
by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV), or applied on the skin
(topically). Acyclovir is the antiviral medicine used most often to treat
chickenpox (varicella). But other antivirals may be
Antiviral eye ointments are also available. They can be used
on your eyes to treat chickenpox blisters.
How It Works
Antiviral medicines stop the growth of
the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus.
Why It Is Used
Antiviral medicines may be
prescribed if a person has been exposed to chickenpox and can't get the chickenpox vaccine or antibodies to help prevent chickenpox.
These medicines may also be used to help treat chickenpox.
Antiviral medicines are typically given to people who are more likely to become
seriously ill or to have complications from chickenpox, such as:
- People who have a long-term illness, such as skin or lung
- People with
impaired immune systems.
with serious complications of chickenpox.
- Babies born early or
babies who have a low birth weight and whose mother had chickenpox.
Antiviral medicines can help protect family
members of a person with chickenpox from getting chickenpox. But they aren't used regularly if a person's
symptoms are not severe or the illness is not causing problems for the
How Well It Works
Antiviral medicines may shorten the
length of illness from chickenpox, cause fewer blisters to form, and help
blisters heal faster. They work best if taken right after the first signs of chickenpox rash appear.
It is not known whether antiviral medicines
reduce the chance of complications of chickenpox. Antiviral
medicines may reduce the complications of chickenpox, such as varicella
pneumonia, in people who have impaired immune
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Current as of
||August 23, 2013