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Drug for Herpes Wards Off Cold Sores (and Colds?)

Q. My wife and I have each taken an acyclovir pill a day for 18 years. During that entire time, neither of us has had a fever blister, cold, flu, shingles or virus of any kind. We do not get flu shots.

I’m 75 and she’s 60. I am amazed that acyclovir has not been promoted widely, considering how well it works. The generic is very cheap, and we have had absolutely no side effects.

A. Acyclovir (Zovirax) was the first FDA-approved antiviral drug against herpes infections. It is used to treat chickenpox, shingles and genital herpes as well as cold sores (fever blisters). We could find no evidence that prescription acyclovir would provide protection against other viruses such as those that cause influenza or colds. Perhaps your resistance to such infections is coincidental and a testimony to the strength of your immune system. 

Many people, like you, experience no side effects. A few report nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or headache. Some adverse reactions are rare but serious, including hallucinations, seizures and dangerous skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis.

If you have experience with acyclovir preventing any of these conditions, please share your story in the comments section below:

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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