Valaciclovir (Valtrex) is a prescription medication for the treatment of cold sores (oral herpes) and is one of the few treatments which have been scientifically proven to be quick and effective in the prevention and treatment of oral herpes breakouts.
We have compiled an easy to understand guide around everything you need to know about Valaciclovir. Have a read below to understand what cold sores are, how they are caused and how Valaciclovir works in treating or preventing them.
What are Cold Sores?
Cold sores are a type of herpes infection that affects your mouth and which are caused by a virus called herpes simplex (or HSV-1) better known as oral herpes. Cold sores can result in significant irritation, pain, discomfort, and worry for whoever is affected. It is an extremely common virus and The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 67% of the world population is infected.
Once you have the virus, it stays in your skin for the rest of your life. Most people are exposed to the virus when they’re young after close contact with someone who has a cold sore. It doesn’t usually cause any symptoms until you’re older. You won’t know if it’s in your skin unless you get a cold sore.
Cold sores are common and usually clear up on their own within 10 days. But there are prescription medications which can materially speed things up and help ease the pain and reduce or prevent the outbreak.
What is Valaciclovir?
Valaciclovir is an MHRA-approved antiviral medication for the treatment of cold sores (oral herpes). It stops the infecting herpes virus from reproducing early into the infection. Valaciclovir will work most effectively when the tablets are taken as soon as the first symptoms start to appear.
When used effectively it can stop a cold sores outbreak at the first sign that one is on its way or reduce the severity of the outbreak. With most medications, it is important to act fast and not let the virus give a chance to spread.
What is the difference between Valtrex and Valaciclovir?
Valaciclovir is the active ingredient in Valtrex, the branded treatment for cold sores and oral herpes. While Valtrex is significantly more expensive, they are actually medically identical.
As with other generic medicines, they contain the same active ingredient and are hence equally effective as the branded counterparts, but significantly cheaper. Generic manufacturers have to prove to the European Medicines Agency and MHRA that they are medically identical to the branded product before getting approved for sale.
How quickly does Valaciclovir work?
Valaciclovir is most effective when it is used within the first 48 hours of the first symptoms appearing. Research has shown that the use of Valaciclovir treatment can reduce the recovery period on average by one day.
The recommended dosage of Valaciclovir for oral herpes outbreaks is twice 2,000mg, split 12 hours apart. Valaciclovir usually starts treating herpes symptoms as soon as it is in your body, but can still take several days to show noticeable results.
In more severe cases your GP may prescribe Valaciclovir for a longer period than 10 days or prescribe a different dosage depending on your needs.
What are the side effects of Valaciclovir?
Like all prescription medications, Valaciclovir can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. The following side effects can occur:
Very Common (affects more than 10% of people):
Common (affects 1-10% of people):
- feeling sick
- skin reaction after exposure to sunlight
Can I drink alcohol while taking Valaciclovir?
While you can still drink alcohol in moderate levels (not more than 2 units) while taking Valaciclovir, it is best to avoid alcohol altogether in order to see the best possible results.
Additionally, taking Valaciclovir and alcohol combined may make you more likely to feel nauseous than you would if you took the drug on its own.