Imiquimod (Aldara®)

About This Drug

Imiquimod is used to treat cancer. It is given topically (applied to the skin).

Possible Side Effects

  • ​​Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Flaking/dryness
  • Scabbing/crusting
  • Swelling
  • Hardened skin
  • Excoriation/erosion (raw skin)
  • Ulceration (blisters)

Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 28% or greater of patients treated with imiquimod. Not all possible side effects are included above.

Warnings and Precautions

  • Severe skin reaction to the affected and surrounded area, such as swelling, weeping (peeling off) and erosion (raw skin).
  • Flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and fatigue (low energy, feeling weak)
  • Darkening of the skin, or changes to the color of your skin, which can sometimes be permanent.

How to Take Your Medication

  • Imiquimod should be applied as directed by your doctor. It is recommended that imiquimod cream should be applied before bedtime and be left on your affected skin for approximately 8 hours, after which, you should wash away the cream with mild soap and water.
  • To apply the cream, follow these steps:
    • ​Wash your hands with a mild soap and water, as well as the affected area of your skin
    • Apply the cream on the affected area and approximately 1cm around the area
    • Rub the cream in until it is no longer visible
    • Wash your hands with a mild soap and water when you are finished applying the cream
  • Avoid contact with the eyes, lips and nostrils.
  • The treated area should not be covered up with bandages.
  • Storage: Your medication comes in a single-use packet. Unused and partially-used packets should be thrown away.

Treating Side Effects

  • Avoid sun and sunlamp exposure and apply sunscreen routinely when outdoors.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are no known interactions of imiquimod with foods or other medicines.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have any of these symptoms and/or any new or unusual symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Tiredness
  • Signs of severe skin reactions such as skin weeping (peeling off) or erosion (raw skin)
  • If you think you are pregnant

Reproduction Warnings

  • Pregnancy warning: It is not known if this drug may harm an unborn child. For this reason, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while receiving this drug. Let your doctor know right away if you think you may be pregnant or may have impregnated your partner.
  • Breastfeeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and cause harm to a breast feeding baby.

New: June 2017​


UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com