Steroids, Antivirals and Antibiotics

Where facial paralysis is thought to be caused by an infection, various medical treatments may be prescribed.

Caution: This information is intended just to explain how and when these treatments may be used. You should always seek advice from your GP before taking any medication.


Relevant to: Bell’s palsy, Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

A steroid called Prednisolone is commonly used to treat patients with Bell’s palsy. This should be administered within 72 hours of the symptoms appearing and works by helping to reduce inflammation. There is no evidence at present to suggest that there is any benefit in taking steroids beyond the 72-hour time window.

It is important to remember that even treatment with steroids within 72 hours of onset of symptoms will not guarantee a full recovery in all cases. However this treatment will give you the best possible chance of making a full recovery and should be taken if prescribed by your GP.

Recent studies suggest that antiviral drugs do not improve the outcome for a patient with Bell’s palsy.

Where a diagnosis of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is suspected, steroids may also be prescribed, depending on the severity of symptoms. The effectiveness of the use of steroids for treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is not proven due to the difficulty of judging whether a patient would have recovered anyway, without taking steroids.


Frequently asked:

Question: Are steroids safe for children to take?

Caution: You should always seek advice from the health professional in charge of your child’s care before giving them any medication as they will know your child’s full medical history.

Answer: Steroids are safe in children in short courses. 1-2mk/kg for 5 days tailing off for 5 days was the protocol suggested by the Alder Hey Endocrinology department.


Relevant to: Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Where Ramsay Hunt syndrome is suspected, antiviral medications such as Valacyclovir (also known as Valtrex), Aciclovir (previously known as Acyclovir, also known as Zovirax) or Famciclovir (also known as Famvir) are usually prescribed for 7 to 10 days. This medication may reduce the severity and duration of Ramsay Hunt syndrome if given promptly after onset of symptoms.


Relevant to: Lyme disease.

When a patient is diagnosed with Lyme disease, they are treated with antibiotics because this is a bacterial infection.

Patients should discuss the side effects of medications with their GP and ensure they read the medicine information leaflet.

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Last reviewed: 20-07-2015    ||    Next review due: 20-07-2017