Imiquimod (On the skin)

Imiquimod (im-I-kwi-mod)

Treats genital warts, actinic keratoses, and basal cell carcinoma.

Brand Name(s):

Aldara, Zyclara

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. You should not use it if you had an allergic reaction to imiquimod.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will tell you how much medicine to use. Do not use more than directed.
  • Read and follow the patient instructions that come with this medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. The directions are different depending on what condition you are treating.
  • Pump: Prime the pump before you use it the first time by pressing down on the handle until some cream comes out. You will not need to prime it again.
  • Use this medicine only on your skin. Rinse it off right away if it gets on a cut or scrape. Do not get the medicine in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you use this medicine.
  • Wash the treatment area with mild soap and water before you apply the cream. Wait at least 10 minutes for the area to dry.Apply a thin layer of the medicine to the affected area. Rub it in gently.
  • Do not cover the treated area with a bandage unless directed by your doctor. Ask your doctor if you may wear cotton clothing or place cotton gauze over the treated skin if you have a skin reaction. .
  • Apply the medicine right before you go to bed. Leave the medicine on the skin for 8 hours. In the morning, wash the treated skin with mild soap and water.
  • Treatment for basal cell carcinoma: Also apply the medicine to a small area of skin around your basal cell carcinoma. This area of skin should be about the size of your fingertip.
  • Treatment for genital warts: Do not use the medicine inside your vagina or anus. Uncircumcised men treating genital warts under the foreskin should pull back the foreskin and clean the area daily.
  • Missed dose: Apply the medicine as soon as you can, unless it is almost time for your next dose. If so, skip the missed dose and apply the regular dose at the regular time. Do not apply extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.
  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Do not freeze. Store the pump upright.
  • Packet: Throw away the packet after you apply your dose of medicine. Do not save an opened packet to use later.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have an autoimmune disorder or problems with your immune system.
  • This medicine may cause severe swelling or other skin reactions where it is applied. It could also cause flu-like symptoms. Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop using the medicine until the reaction improves.
  • This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Wear sunscreen. Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds.
  • Do not use this medicine to treat a skin problem your doctor has not examined.
  • Treatment for genital warts:
    • Do not have sex during the treatment time, even if you use protection. The cream can weaken condoms and diaphragms and they could break.
    • Imiquimod is not a cure for genital or anal warts. You may develop new warts while using the cream. The cream will not keep you from spreading genital warts to other people.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blistering, peeling red skin rash anywhere on your body
  • Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, nausea, or muscle or joint pain
  • Severe skin reaction, including burning, pain, redness, swelling, bleeding, itching, ulcers, oozing, scabbing, blisters, or peeling
  • Severe swelling near the vagina
  • Worsening of other skin conditions

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Mild skin reaction, including redness, swelling, stinging, or change in color

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 11/6/2020

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