Terbinafine for topical use (Lamisil)

Terbinafine is for the treatment of fungal skin infections, such as athlete's foot.

Read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack for full details of how to apply it.

If your infection shows no sign of improvement after 1-2 weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor for further advice.

Type of medicine Antifungal
Used for Fungal skin infections in adults
Also called Lamisil®
Available as Cream, topical solution, gel, and spray

Although many types of fungi live harmlessly on our skin, some can cause infections. The most common fungi to cause skin infections are the tinea group of fungi. For example, tinea pedis (athlete's foot) is a common fungal infection of the toes and feet, and tinea cruris (fungal groin infection) is a fungal infection which affects the groin area. Infections caused by a fungus or a yeast (a type of fungus) can affect other parts of the body too.

Terbinafine is an antifungal medicine which is applied topically (to the skin) as a cream, gel, solution, or spray. It works by killing the fungus causing the infection. Although terbinafine is available on prescription, you can also buy some preparations without a prescription at pharmacies and other retail outlets. 

If your fungal infection is widespread, or if it is in a place that is difficult to treat (such as a nail infection), it may require treatment with tablets prescribed by a doctor. There is a separate medicine leaflet called Terbinafine tablets which gives more information about this.

To make sure this is the right treatment for you, before you start using terbinafine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding. This is because, while you are expecting or feeding a baby, you should only take/use medicines on the recommendation of a doctor.
  • If you are taking any other medicines or using any other creams. This includes any medicines which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine or cream.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about terbinafine and how to apply it.
  • Wash and dry the infected area of skin before you apply terbinafine.
  • If you are using cream or gel, apply a thin layer once or twice daily and then rub it in gently. You will need to use it regularly for one to two weeks. Once all signs of your infection have gone, continue to use it for a further two or three days to prevent the infection from coming back.
  • If you are using spray, use it once each day for a week and be careful to make sure that all of the infected area has been covered by the spray.
  • If you are using solution, this is applied once only. Treat both of your feet at the same time by applying a thin layer of solution, making sure you apply it between your toes, on the soles of your feet and up the sides of your feet for about 1.5 cm. The solution will dry to form a film. Do not wash your feet for 24 hours after you've applied the solution.
  • Remember to wash your hands carefully after using terbinafine, as this will help to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body. Also, use a separate towel to other people until your infection clears up.
  • Fungal infections often occur in warm, moist areas of the body. After washing or showering, make sure that all areas of your skin are dried well, particularly areas such as skin folds and between your toes.
  • As a guide, athelete's foot usually clears up within a week of treatment, and infections affecting the groin area within two weeks of treatment. If there are no signs of improvement after these times, you should make an appointment to see your doctor for further advice.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Possible terbinafine side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Irritation, redness, or itching If this continues or becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any severe skin reactions or other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

This preparation is for use on the skin only. If someone swallows some of it, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 65th Edition (Mar 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3447 (v23)
Last Checked:
12/06/2013
Next Review:
11/06/2016
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