Antiviral treatments

Examples: Zovirax® (Aciclovir) eye ointment, Virgan® (Ganciclovir) eye gel

How do they work?

Antiviral medications are used to treat infections caused by viruses. They stop viruses from spreading or multiplying. Eye ointment or drops are used to treat simple viral eye infections. Tablets or suspensions might also be required in more severe cases. It can take a few days before your child’s eyes feel or look better.


What should I tell the pharmacist or doctor?

Tell the pharmacist or doctor if your child is allergic to any antibiotic, or other medication.


How to give eye drops/ointment

Before giving either drops or ointment, it is important to wash and dry your hands.

  • Eye drops: You need to place only one drop in each eye. If you need to give more than one type of eye drop, leave at least five minutes between applying each type of medicine.
  • Eye ointment: Pull down the lower lid and squeeze about 1/2 a centimetre (1/4 of an inch) of ointment into each eye. You need to take care not to touch the eye with the end of the tube.

Contact lenses should be removed before putting in eye drops. Wait 15 minutes before putting the contact lenses back in the eye. Check with the pharmacist that the eye drops or ointment are safe to use with contact lenses.


How often and for how long should I give antivirals?

Antivirals need to be given at regular times throughout the day. The pharmacist or doctor will tell you how frequently and whether the antivirals need to be taken with food or on an empty stomach. Your child must drink plenty of liquids such as water whilst taking antiviral medications. Antiviral suspensions require the bottle to be well shaken before use.  Some antiviral tablets can be dispersed in a glass of water, which should be stirred before drinking. Check with the pharmacist or in the product leaflet provided.

You should always complete the full course of treatment, even if your child seems better. Otherwise the infection could return.


What are the main side effects?

Rarely, antivirals can cause an allergic reaction. The signs of an allergic reaction can include: severe redness, swelling and irritation of the eye or eyelids, rash, swelling of the lips or face, or difficulty with breathing.

Other side effects are not common but can include: feeling sick, diarrhoea, headache, drowsiness, being very irritable and, very rarely, kidney problems or low blood cell counts.

Mild side effects: Antivirals can sometimes cause eye irritation, redness and swelling.

Allergic reactions: The signs of an allergic reaction can include:

· Severe redness, swelling and irritation of the eye or eyelids

· Swelling of eyelids, lips or face

· Difficulty breathing

·Rash on the skin

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, stop the medication and seek medical attention immediately.


How do you store antivirals?

Most antiviral drops/ointments can be stored at room temperature and should be thrown away four weeks after you open them. Some antivirals need to be stored in a fridge and some need to be thrown away after one week.

Tablets/capsules and suspensions can usually be stored at room temperature in their original packaging. Aciclovir suspension should be discarded 28 days after opening.

Check with your pharmacist when you need to discard the medication.

Do not use medicines after the expiry date written on the packaging.