Name: Abreva

How should I apply Abreva (docosanol topical)?

Use docosanol exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand these directions, ask your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor to explain them to you.

Wash your hands before and after applying docosanol topical.

Docosanol topical should be applied at the very first sign of a cold sore, such as the tingle, redness, bump, or itch.

Docosanol topical is a smooth, white cream that dries clear. It won't sting or burn and it has no medicinal smell or taste.

Remove any cosmetics before applying docosanol topical. Apply enough docosanol topical to completely cover the cold sore or fever blister and rub in gently and completely.

Docosanol topical is usually applied five times a day until healed. Stop using docosanol topical and see your doctor if the cold sore gets worse or the cold sore is not healed with in 10 days.

If at any time the medication is accidentally removed, re-apply it as soon as possible.

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 the infection.

Avoid getting this medication in the eyes or mouth.

Store docosanol topical at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not freeze.

What other drugs will affect Abreva (docosanol topical)?

It is not known whether docosanol topical will interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all other medicines you are using, especially other topical preparations, and talk to your doctor and pharmacist before using any prescription or over-the-counter medicines during treatment with docosanol topical.

Abreva Dosage and Administration


Topical Administration

Apply topically to affected areas of the lips and surrounding skin as a 10% cream.1 5

Do not apply in or near the eyes or inside the mouth.1 5

Supplied as a smooth, odorless, tasteless white cream that dries clear.10 When applying, rub in gently and completely.1

Wash hands before and after application process.1 10

For best results, remove any cosmetics from affected areas prior to applying or reapplying the 10% cream.1 10

Cosmetics may be applied to lips or skin after application of the 10% cream.1 10 Avoid spreading the HSV infection by using a separate applicator (e.g., cotton swab) to apply cosmetics or sunscreen over unhealed lesions.1 10


Pediatric Patients

Herpes Labialis Topical

Children≥12 years of age: Apply to affected areas 5 times daily until healed (maximum 10 days).1 5 Use sufficient quantity to adequately cover lesions and symptomatic area (e.g., area with tingling).1 5

Initiate at earliest sign or symptom (i.e., tingling, pruritus, redness, presence of a bump) of herpes labialis.1


Herpes Labialis Topical

Apply to affected areas 5 times daily until healed (maximum 10 days).1 5 Use sufficient quantity to adequately cover lesions and symptomatic area (e.g., area with tingling).1 5

Initiate at earliest sign or symptom (i.e., tingling, pruritus, redness, presence of a bump) of herpes labialis.1

Prescribing Limits

Maximum 10 days of treatment.1

Special Populations

No special population recommendations at this time.5

Advice to Patients

  • Importance of applying docosanol 10% cream at first sign or symptom of herpes labialis lesion as indicated by tingling, pruritus, redness, or presence of a bump.1 10

  • Importance of discontinuing the drug and contacting clinician if lesion does not heal within 10 days of initiating treatment or if condition worsens.1 10

  • Importance of not sharing docosanol cream with others since this may spread the infection.1 10

  • Importance of keeping docosanol cream out of reach of children and of contacting a poison control center immediately if the drug is swallowed.1 5

  • Importance of avoiding contact with eyes or inside of mouth.1 For external use only.1 5

  • If a dose is missed, apply as soon as it is remembered; apply the next dose on schedule.10 If a dose is accidentally wiped off while blowing the nose or wiping the mouth, reapply the dose as soon as possible.10

  • Importance of women informing clinicians if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed.1

  • Importance of informing patients of other important precautionary information.1 (See Cautions.)


Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.

Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.



Dosage Forms


Brand Names







What are some things I need to know or do while I take Abreva?

  • Tell all of your health care providers that you take Abreva. This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
  • Talk with your doctor before you use other drugs or products on your skin.
  • This medicine may cause harm if swallowed. If this medicine is swallowed, call a doctor or poison control center right away.
  • Do not give Abreva to a child younger than 12 years old without first checking with the doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant. You will need to talk about the benefits and risks of using this medicine while you are pregnant.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding. You will need to talk about any risks to your baby.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Very bad irritation where this medicine is used.

Side Effects of Abreva

Common side effects of Abreva include skin irritation, burning or stinging, and headache.

This may not be a complete list of Abreva side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

Abreva Overdose

Small amounts consumed by licking the affected area will be minimal and should not be concerning. 

If large amount of the tube contents is swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison control center right away (1-800-222-1222).

Do not use for longer than 10 days. 



Mechanism of Action

Exerts its antiviral effect on HSV by inhibiting fusion of the virus envelope with host cell plasma membranes, resulting in inhibition of viral entry into cells and subsequent viral replication