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Shingles health centre

Antiviral creams or gels

BMJ Group Medical Reference

These creams or gels include antiviral medicines like aciclovir. You rub them on your skin, over the rash, instead of taking them as tablets. But we don't know if antiviral creams or gels work as well as antiviral tablets. There isn't much good-quality research.

One summary of the research (a systematic review) showed no difference between using an antiviral cream and using a dummy cream (as a placebo). But the studies were not very good, so it's hard to know for certain. [13]

Doctors sometimes prescribe antiviral cream as well as antiviral tablets, especially for people with a severe shingles rash around their eye. This is to increase the amount of antiviral medicine getting straight to the area around their eye. But there's no research to show whether or not it helps to use antiviral creams and antiviral pills at the same time. [6]



A placebo is a 'pretend' or dummy treatment that contains no active substances. A placebo is often given to half the people taking part in medical research trials, for comparison with the 'real' treatment. It is made to look and taste identical to the drug treatment being tested, so that people in the studies do not know if they are getting the placebo or the 'real' treatment. Researchers often talk about the 'placebo effect'. This is where patients feel better after having a placebo treatment because they expect to feel better. Tests may indicate that they actually are better. In the same way, people can also get side effects after having a placebo treatment. Drug treatments can also have a 'placebo effect'. This is why, to get a true picture of how well a drug works, it is important to compare it against a placebo treatment.

systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Shingles


For references related to Shingles click here.
Last Updated: September 05, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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