Name: Abreva

What should I avoid while using Abreva (docosanol topical)?

Cold sores are contagious before, during and after an outbreak or when blisters are present. Cold sore sufferers should avoid close physical or intimate contact, such as kissing, when having an outbreak.

Cosmetics, such as lipstick, may be applied over docosanol topical. However, use a separate applicator, such as cotton swab, to apply cosmetics over an unhealed cold sore to avoid spreading the infection.

Do not share docosanol topical with anyone. Sharing may spread infection.

Abreva (docosanol topical) side effects

No serious side effects are expected with docosanol topical treatment. If you suspect an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; rash; hives; itching; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face) seek emergency medical attention.

Other less serious side effects are also uncommon. Headache has been reported.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Uses for Abreva

Herpes Labialis

Topical treatment of recurrent herpes labialis (perioral herpes, cold sores, fever blisters).1 6 10

Available for self-medication (OTC use).1 5 10

Safety and efficacy in immunocompromised individuals not established.5

How is this medicine (Abreva) best taken?

Use Abreva as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.

  • Keep using this medicine as you have been told by your doctor or other health care provider, even if you feel well.
  • Do not take Abreva by mouth. Use on your skin only. Keep out of your mouth, nose, and eyes (may burn).
  • Use at the first sign of a cold sore.
  • Wash your hands before and after use.
  • Put on affected part and rub gently.
  • Makeup may be used after the skin has dried.
  • Do not rub the cold sore. Rubbing the cold sore may make it worse. It may also cause the cold sore to spread to other areas around the mouth.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Put on a missed dose as soon as you think about it.
  • If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your normal time.
  • Do not put on 2 doses or extra doses.


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.


Store at room temperature between 68-77 degrees F (20-25 degrees C). Protect from freezing. If you have any questions about storage, ask your pharmacist. Keep all drug products 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 for more details about how to safely discard your product.


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Reviewed on 4/16/2014 References

Abreva Overview

Abreva is an over the counter medication used to treat cold sores and fever blisters in adults and children 12 years of age and older. Abreva belongs to a group of drugs called antivirals. It works by preventing the virus from entering the cells.

This medication comes in a cream form and is applied to the affected area of the face or lips 5 times a day. 

Common side effects of Abreva include redness and headaches. 



  • Glaxo SmithKline Consumer Healthcare

For the Consumer

Applies to docosanol topical: topical cream

Along with its needed effects, docosanol topical (the active ingredient contained in Abreva) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Some side effects of docosanol topical may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common
  • Headache
Less common
  • Surface problems including:
  • acne
  • burning
  • dryness
  • itching
  • rash
  • redness
  • soreness
  • swelling

Usual Adult Dose for Herpes Simplex

Apply to affected area on face or lips 5 times a day beginning at the first sign of cold sore or fever blister (i.e., tingling)

Use: For the treatment of cold sores or fever blisters on the face or lips