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Does oral antiviral suppressive therapy prevent recurrent herpes labialis in children?
  1. Laure F Pittet1,
  2. Nigel Curtis1,2,3
  1. 1 Infectious Diseases Unit, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Pediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Infectious Diseases Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Nigel Curtis, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia; nigel.curtis{at}

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A 13-year-old girl presents with recurrent herpes labialis (HL) on her face. She gives a history of painful episodes occurring approximately monthly since the age of 9 years. Since becoming a teenager, she has missed a lot of school due to her worry about the cosmetic appearance of recurrences. Her parents ask whether long-term antiviral medication will prevent recurrences.

Structured clinical question

In an otherwise healthy child or adolescent with recurrent HL (patient), is oral antiviral suppressive therapy (intervention) effective in reducing the frequency of recurrences of HL (outcome).


Medline, Pubmed and EMBASE were searched in January 2019 with no language restriction. The search strategy is detailed in the online supplementary material.

Supplemental material


Of 2032 unique articles, after exclusion of studies investigating immunocompromised patients, pre-emptive treatment or short-term (<4 weeks) interventions, four were relevant (table 1). Only one study addressed recurrences in children or adolescents (a retrospective study in four patients).1 The remaining three articles described randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in adults,2–4 also reported in a Cochrane meta-analysis.5 The references of all relevant publications were reviewed and no further articles were identified.

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Table 1

Long-term antiviral suppressive therapy for reducing the frequency and severity of recurrences of herpes labialis


HL is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), a ubiquitous double-stranded DNA virus that primarily infects …

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  • Contributors LFP drafted the initial manuscript. NC critically revised the manuscript and both authors approved the final version as submitted.

  • Funding LFP is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Early Postdoc.Mobility grant number P2GEP3_178155).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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