Name: Abreva


Docosanol belongs to the family of medicines called antivirals. Antivirals are used to treat infections caused by viruses. Usually they work for only one kind or group of virus infections.

Topical docosanol is used to treat the symptoms of herpes simplex virus infections around the mouth. Although topical docosanol will not cure herpes simplex, it may help relieve the pain and discomfort and may help the sores (if any) heal faster.

Docosanol is available over the counter.

This product is available in the following dosage forms:

  • Cream

What is Abreva (docosanol topical)?

Docosanol is an antiviral medication used to treat cold sore infections caused by the herpes simplex virus. Docosanol shortens the healing time and the length of time symptoms are present.

Docosanol topical is used to treat cold sores on the face and lips.

Docosanol may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

Who should not use Abreva (docosanol topical)?

Before using docosanol topical, tell your doctor if you have any other medical conditions or if you use any other medications.

The FDA has not evaluated the effects of docosanol topical used during pregnancy. Do notuse docosanol topical without first talking to your doctor if you are pregnant.

It is not known whether docosanol topical passes into breast milk. Do not use docosanol topical without first talking to your doctor if you are breast feeding a baby.

Docosanol topical is not approved for use by children younger than 12 years old.

Cautions for Abreva


Known hypersensitivity to docosanol or any ingredient in the formulation.1


General Precautions

Use only for symptomatic treatment of herpes labialis lesions.1 10 Not indicated for preventive therapy.10

Not indicated for treatment of localized herpes zoster (shingles, zoster) or any other cutaneous or mucocutaneous diseases or conditions (e.g., canker sores inside the mouth, cracks forming at corners of mouth).10

Safety and efficacy in immunocompromised individuals not established.5

Discontinue if herpes labialis lesions are not healed after 10 days of treatment.10 An updated diagnosis and additional treatment may be indicated.10

Secondary bacterial infection may be present if lesions do not heal within 7–10 days.10

Specific Populations


Studies have not been conducted; consult clinician before use.10


Studies have not been conducted; consult clinician before use.10

Pediatric Use

Safety and efficacy not established in children <12 years of age.1 5

Geriatric Use

No specific recommendations.5

Common Adverse Effects

Headache,6 application site reaction (e.g., burning, stinging), 5 6 herpes simplex outside of treatment area.6

Actions and Spectrum

  • Naturally occurring 22-carbon saturated aliphatic alcohol.2 3 5 7

  • In vitro activity against Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), cytomegalovirus (CMV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1).2 3 7 12 13

  • Mechanism of action in treatment of herpes labialis lesions does not involve direct virucidal activity against HSV.10 11 12 13 Appears to interfere with fusion of the HSV envelope and host cell membranes, thereby preventing HSV entry into host cells and subsequent viral replication.2 3 5 7 10 11 12 13

Consumer Information Use and Disclaimer

  • If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
  • Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs.
  • Keep a list of all your drugs (prescription, natural products, vitamins, OTC) with you. Give this list to your doctor.
  • Talk with the doctor before starting any new drug, including prescription or OTC, natural products, or vitamins.
  • Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about Abreva, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only the healthcare provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for a specific patient. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about Abreva. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from the healthcare provider. You must talk with the healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using Abreva (docosanol).

Review Date: October 4, 2017

Abreva Drug Class

Abreva is part of the drug class:

  • Antivirals

Abreva Precautions

Abreva is for external use only.

When using this product:

  • apply only to affected areas
  • do not use in or near the eyes
  • avoid applying directly inside your mouth
  • do not share this product with anyone. This may spread infection.
 Do not use if you are allergic to any ingredient in this product.

Stop use and ask a doctor if your cold sore gets worse or the cold sore is not healed within 10 days.

Keep out of reach of children.

If swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison control center right away (1-800-222-1222).


Liver Dose Adjustments

Data not available


Data not available