The doctor may prescribe antiviral tablets to speed up healing and reduce the severity of a first episode. Aciclovir is the most commonly used antiviral drug for this purpose. You don’t need the tablets if the first episode is mild, or if you have almost recovered before you see the doctor.
Aciclovir is also put into a cream (e.g. Herpetad, Soothelip, Virasorb, Zovirax) but tests have shown that these creams are no better than a placebo (a dummy cream). Manufacturers do not recommend them for use on mucous membrane (inner ‘wet’ skin) as it may irritate this sensitive skin.
If you get more episodes later on, these are less likely to be treated with antiviral tablets as treatment has to start early on to have any significant effect
Some people are unlucky and get frequent recurrences. In these cases the doctor may prescribe a longer course of tablets to keep the virus dormant – perhaps for six months at a time. For most people this is not necessary either because their body deals with the virus without help or because they find that adopting a healthier life style does the trick