How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.
During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.
However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.
For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:
- Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
- If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
- Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.
Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.
If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.
Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
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If You Get A Positive Result Dont Panic It Really Doesnt Mean Much
All of this is to say that unless you have symptoms consistent with the herpes virus, why put yourself through the emotional turmoil of getting a blood test that may or may not give you legit results? As Hutcherson notes, if you do get a blood test and it comes back positive but youâre asymptomatic, what does that mean for you if you have nothing to treat? For many, due to the high rate of stigma still surrounding herpes, it can mean feelings of self-contempt, humiliation, and distress, all of which could be avoided if you arenât experiencing any symptoms.
To recap, while there are some tests for herpes that can prove correct, none are 100 percent perfect, and blood tests are particularly problematic since they can produce false positives and negatives. We also know that the majority of the population has some form of herpes, so IMO itâs a mystery as to why weâre still making a big deal out of it. No one likes blisters or sores, but neither does anyone love having acne, a widespread condition without the same level of attached shame.
Things You Can Do To Help
Antivirals are only designed to stop the virus multiplying and will not help your discomfort in the short term. For this, there are a few simple things you can do to ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process:
- Apply an ice pack or ice cubes in a plastic bag
- Take a cool shower to soothe the blisters
- Apply a local, over-the-counter anaesthetic cream such as lidocaine
- Gently bathe the area with warm salt water
- Carefully pat the area dry
- If weeing is painful, go to the toilet in a warm bath or shower
- Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area to avoid introducing bacteria
- Keep hydrated and drink extra fluids
- Wear loose, cotton clothing
- Use an over-the-counter painkiller to help with pain and discomfort
Avoid washing your genitals too often when you have an outbreak, as this wont help to alleviate the symptoms.
The antivirals are safe to use with hormonal contraception but talk to the person prescribing the treatment to make sure.
Genital herpes can be safely treated during pregnancy. It is important to discuss with your midwife if you have, or have had, herpes infections. The treatment you receive may depend on whether it is your first herpes infection and also where in the pregnancy you are but your midwife will advise you.
It is strongly advised that you do not have any sexual contact before or during an outbreak and for a week after your symptoms have completely gone.
Talking to people about STIs
STIs and Stigma
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When To Talk With A Doctor
Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.
Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.
How Long Do Herpes Test Results Take
As soon as you have collected the fluid sample and sent it to the lab, it can take just 2 to 3 days after the sample has reached the lab for the results to be ready. One of the Superdrug Online doctors will contact you through the patient account created online. This is an encrypted channel that protects your privacy.
If there is a need for more information, the doctor may call you. You will never be contacted through email or text with your results.
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Myth #: You Get Tested For It Every Time You Ask For An Sti Check
In the midst of reporting this piece, I happened to see my OB/GYN. Regarding herpes, he told me, and I quote, We can land a man on the moon but we cant figure out herpes diagnosis.
So, heres the thing: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention doesnt recommend routine herpes testing, which means that unless you specifically ask for it, youre not getting tested for it. This might seem like a massive oversight, but there are a number of good reasons for this.
When you do blood testing for herpes, its very difficult to interpret, says NYC-based gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, MD. It might tell you youve been exposed at one point at your life, but it wont tell you when that happened or who you got it fromso the usual STD screen doesnt test for herpes in the blood unless people ask for it. Even then, a positive result will mean youll be told youve been exposed to herpes, which isnt quite the same thing as being told you have it. Plus, per the CDC, diagnosing someone without symptoms via a blood test has not shown to change their sexual behavior or stop the spread of the virus.
The Health Risks Of Genital Herpes
Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected. Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.
Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.
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Is It Possible To Sleep With Someone With Herpes And Not Get It
Yes. Herpes can be passed on even if a partner has no sores or other signs and symptoms of an outbreak. And if a partner has a herpes outbreak, its even more likely to be spread. Even when a person doesnt have visible sores, the only surefire way to protect against getting genital herpes is abstinence.
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How Much Does The Test Cost
The cost of testing for genital and oral herpes depends on the type of test that is performed, where the test is conducted, and whether the patient has medical insurance. Testing is often covered by insurance when ordered by a doctor, although patients may still be responsible for costs such as copays and deductibles.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
- If you get genital herpes during pregnancy, you can spread genital herpes to your baby during delivery.
- If you had genital herpes before pregnancy, your baby is still at risk of getting herpes, but the risk is lower.
Most women with genital herpes have healthy babies. But babies who get herpes from their mother have neonatal herpes. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition that can cause problems in a newborn baby such as brain damage, eye problems, or even death.
Is Alzheimers Disease Related To Hsv
Alzheimers disease is a progressive brain disease that develops as a result of a complex series of events occurring in the brain over a long period of time. The causes of Alzheimers disease may include genetic, environmental, and other factors. Several different factors have been statistically linked to Alzheimers disease, including HSV-1 infection. However, some investigations suggest that viruses other than HSV-1 may influence Alzheimers disease. More research is needed to determine whether or not there is a causal link between HSV-1 infection and Alzheimers disease.
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When Should I Get Tested
The best time to get tested for herpes if you havent had an initial outbreak is 12 days after exposure. This is because your body will have had time to produce antibodies that can be detected on a test.
A blood test can determine whether you have these antibodies.
Swabs, on the other hand, can detect the virus directly from an active herpes lesion.
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Doctors Dont Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed, she says. If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1. She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.
Hutchersons motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you havent seen anything especially when its something as common as herpes? Lets say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion, she says. Its for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Lets say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
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Reducing The Risk Of Genital Herpes
The herpes virus cant pass through a condom. However, if the virus is present and active on the skin in areas around the genitals not covered by the condom , infection may still occur. Therefore condoms are not 100% protective against the herpes virus.
If your partner has herpes, avoiding sex when they have visible sores reduces your risk of getting herpes.
More Information About Oral & Genital Herpes Testing
How Did I Get Herpes Simplex Virus?
HSV-1 is often transmitted through kissing, sexual contact, oral secretions, sharing personal objects liketoothbrushes, and direct contact with herpes sores. HSV-2 is seldom spread in ways other than sex and directcontact with genitals of someone who is herpes-positive. Those who have herpes often do not display symptoms atfirst. It can take weeks, months, or even years before symptoms appear, which aids the virus in spreading.
Though its important to always practice safe sex, herpes can occasionally be transmitted even when usingprotection. This is why its important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about theirstatus, to be aware of the symptoms to look out for and to understand that herpes can be contracted even when nosymptoms are present.
Do You Use a Blood or Urine Sample to Test for Herpes?
The herpes type 1 and 2 type-specific antibody test requires a blood sample to be taken. This type oftesting is the most accurate and reliable option available.
How do I Prepare to Test for Herpes Simplex Virus?
No preparation is necessary prior to testing, including fasting or appointments.
When Should I Test for HSV-1 & HSV-2?
If youre experiencing symptoms, get tested immediately! If youre not experiencing symptoms, our cliniciansrecommend waiting at least four weeks after potential exposure to the herpes virus before getting tested to ensurehigher accuracy.
Herpes Test Results Explained
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Are There Any Risks To The Test
There is no known risk to having a swab test.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
If you had a lumbar puncture, you may have pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted. You may also get a headache after the procedure.
How Is It Passed On
Most HSV type 1 infections are acquired during childhood.
You cannot get genital herpes from sharing baths or towels, from swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.
The virus will not pass through a condom but as condoms do not cover all of the genital area it is possible to infect genital skin that is not covered by the condom.
If you already have one type of HSV it is still possible for you to get the other type .
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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
Information For Sexual Partners
You need to tell your sexual partner before you have sexual contact, including oral sex. Latex condoms used consistently can help reduce the risk of genital herpes but are not completely protective. If you have symptoms or sores, avoid any sexual contact until the sores are completely healed and symptoms have gone away. Healed skin means the scab has fallen off and the skin looks normal. Avoid kissing or oral sex when you have a cold sore. Daily antiviral medication can help reduce the risk of passing on the infection.
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Why Should I Get Tested
Genital herpes does not often show signs or symptoms until you have an outbreak. If you have had unprotected sex with someone who has genital herpes, then you may have caught it too. It is important to get tested so that you do not pass it on to someone else.
It is very important to get tested if you are a pregnant woman and have a partner with genital herpes. This is because your baby could also become infected if you get genital herpes too. Herpes infections in babies can be life-threatening.
Are There Other Types Of Herpes Viruses Besides Hsv
Yes. There are over 25 viruses in the herpes family and at least 8 types that infect humans. These include herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 discussed in this article as well as varicella zoster virus , associated with chickenpox and shingles, Epstein Barr virus , which can cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus , human herpes virus 6 and human herpes virus 7 , both associated with roseola in young children, and human herpes virus 8 , which has been found in tumors in people with Kaposi’s sarcoma . KS primarily affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS and organ transplant recipients.
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