The Independent Pharmacy

Aldara Side Effects: Everything You Need To Know Before Using The Genital Warts Treatment

Reviewed on 5 Sep 2023

Genital warts can be unpleasant and embarrassing. Luckily, there are lots of different genital warts treatments available such as Aldara genital warts cream, an effective treatment with minimal side effects.

While they are rare it is still worth doing your research and finding out what could happen when you use this treatment. In this post, we take a closer look at the possible side effects of Aldara cream.

Aldara 5% Cream
Aldara 5% Cream
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Common Aldara side effects

Everyone’s bodies are different, which means that it is possible to react to the same medication in many different ways. Some Aldara users may not experience any negative side effects at all; other users may find that they have an adverse reaction to the treatment.

To find out how real users got on with Aldara cream, you can visit our Aldara customer reviews page.

On the whole, Aldara cream can cause some unexpected reactions during use, but they often depend on the sensitivity of the skin or area you are applying it to.

Side effects from using Aldara cream can include:

  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Wearing away of the skin
  • Flakiness and swelling
  • Hardening under the skin
  • Small open sores
  • A crust that forms during healing
  • Small bubbles under the skin
  • Itching
  • A burning sensation or pain in areas where you have applied Aldara cream

These reactions are usually not serious and should subside roughly two weeks after your treatment is complete.

In fact, symptoms like inflammation and redness are generally considered a good sign because it shows that the Aldara cream is working.

If you are concerned at any point or think you may be suffering from an allergic reaction, seek medical advice from your GP or practice nurse.

Signs Aldara is working

It’s important to note that some side effects are signs Aldara is working. Inflammation and redness are usually good things, for instance: the more inflamed and red the treated area gets, the better the result will be. It’s also normal for these effects to linger for a while once treatment ends.

If you’re unsure whether Aldara is working for you, though, you should consult a medical professional. Even though Aldara is very safe, it’s good to have peace of mind.

Serious side effects and symptoms

Serious side effects of Aldara are unusual but may happen. For example, Aldara may, in some circumstances, cause severe discomfort or soreness which could be indicative of a severe skin reaction. If this is the case, you will notice symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Weeping a clear fluid
  • The formation of sores, blisters or ulcers
  • Discolouration of the skin

If you have been taking Aldara to treat genital warts, and you are concerned that any reactions or side effects you are experiencing are abnormal (particularly if they persist or worsen), then you should consult your doctor for further guidance.

You may need to stop the treatment to give your skin time to recover, but it is best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist as this could impact the effectiveness of the treatment.

Tell your doctor straight away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur and persist:

  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Flu-like symptoms (such as fever, tiredness, muscle aches, coughing, or a runny nose)
  • New unusual skin growths/changes
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and/or diarrhoea
  • Trouble urinating

In very rare cases, users may suffer from an allergic reaction — we will cover these symptoms in the ‘Possible allergic reactions’ section below.

General advice before using Aldara

Aldara (imiquimod) 5% cream is an effective topical treatment for external genital and perianal (around the anus) warts.

To ensure that Aldara is safe and effective for you, you should take note of the below warnings and use them appropriately:

  • If you have open sores, do not start using Aldara cream until after the sores have healed
  • Do not apply Aldara to treat internal warts: do not use Aldara cream in the urethra (the hole from which urine is passed), the vagina (birth canal), the cervix (internal female organ), or anywhere inside your anus (rectum)
  • Aldara cream can weaken latex condoms and diaphragms, so additional contraception may be required
  • If you decide to have sexual relations while you still have warts, you should apply Aldara cream after — not before — sexual activity. Aldara will not reduce the risk of the HPV virus being passed at this time
  • If applying the cream is uncomfortable or the area becomes uncomfortable during treatment, wash the cream off with mild soap and water. Give the affected area time to recover and then restart treatment when appropriate
  • Do not use Aldara cream without consulting your GP if you have problems with your immune system

How Aldara affects the immune system

Aldara cream works to treat genital warts caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Imiquimod — the active ingredient in Aldara cream — does this by working to eradicate HPV, rather than just treating the wart itself.

Imiquimod acts as an immune response modifier (IRM), helping the body stimulate its own defence mechanisms. This essentially tells the body’s immune system to attack the virus itself, releasing chemicals to attack and kill the virus, stopping HPV from multiplying in cells, as well as reducing cell abnormalities. When the HPV type 6 & 11 are killed, your genital warts should clear.

Warts treated with Aldara are less likely to recur, and you may never even have them again.

Using Aldara: application and maximum dosage

Aldara should be applied three times a week, with a gap of at least one day between applications. This is to ensure that the cream treats warts successfully, but gives your skin time to recover between applications.

A standard box of Aldara contains 12 sachets of cream for application. One sachet contains enough cream to cover a wart area of approximately three square inches, so it will be enough to treat your warts, even if they are particularly big or you have multiple warts. Be careful to only apply a thin layer of cream to the affected area (making sure to wash your hands carefully with mild soap and warm water before and after).

Each sachet should be thrown away (including any leftover cream) after a single application, and you should use a new sachet for every day of treatment.

You can find out more about how to apply Aldara cream in the product information leaflet, or on our Aldara treatment page.

How Aldara interacts with other medicines

Aldara has no known interactions with other medications or drugs.

If you are concerned about Aldara interacting with your existing medication, then consult your doctor or pharmacist and share this information with them; they will be able to advise you further.

Possible Aldara allergic reactions

A very serious allergic reaction to Aldara cream is very rare, but it can happen.

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the below symptoms of a serious allergic reaction:

  • A rash
  • Itching or swelling (particularly of the face, tongue or throat)
  • Severe dizziness
  • Breathing problems (such as breathlessness)

If any of these symptoms occur, and you think you are having an allergic reaction, you should wash off the medication and get emergency medical attention immediately.

Using Aldara with certain health conditions

Aldara cream is considered an extremely safe and effective medication to use by both men and women to treat genital warts.

However, you may not be able to use Aldara if you suffer from the health conditions below:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Immunosuppressed patients
  • You have had an organ transplant
  • Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Using Aldara if you suffer from any of these health conditions could be harmful to you.

In particular, you should not use Aldara cream without consulting your GP if you have problems with your immune system, either due to illness (like HIV) or because of medication you are already taking.

If you aren’t sure whether using Aldara would be safe or appropriate for you, it is best to speak to your doctor or a medical professional.


Aldara (imiquimod) 5% cream is an effective topical treatment for external genital and perianal warts.

Aldara has some common side effects. However, these are very mild and are usually an indication that the treatment is working. Many Aldara users do not experience any negative side effects at all throughout the course of treatment.

If you encounter any severe or worrying side effects of Aldara cream, you should contact your doctor for advice on how to proceed. They may suggest stopping your course of treatment and trying another genital warts treatment.

If you think this may be the right treatment for you, Aldara is available to buy at The Independent Pharmacy. All you have to do is complete a free online consultation and get this prescription medication delivered to your house the very next day.


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