How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Herpes Simplex
You can reduce your risk of contracting HSV-1 by avoiding physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. People can still spread HSV-1 when cold sores arent present, but its less likely.
If someone has an active HSV-1 infection, avoid:
- Sharing utensils, cups, lip balms or other personal care products.
- Touching the skin near their mouth.
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any prescribed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms. Condoms may not cover all sores, so you may still get the virus.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off active lesions.
Get Herpes Treatment Online
Do you think you have herpes? Antiviral medications such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir can help shorten the length and lessen the severity of your symptoms, and you do not need to visit your doctors office for these treatments.
At PlushCare, you can schedule an online doctors appointment. After talking to one of our licensed doctors through a video or phone call, your doctor will determine if you would benefit from any antiviral medication. Then, they can electronically send it to your pharmacy, where you can pick it up as soon as its ready.
You could get herpes treatment online as soon as today. Schedule an appointment with a trusted PlushCare doctor now!
How Herpes Outbreaks Occur
Once it enters a human cell, the HSV virus penetrates the cell’s nucleus and begins the process of replication. Even though cells may be infected, you probably will not experience any symptoms at this stage.
During the initial infection, the virus is transported through nerve cells to nerve-branching points, known as ganglia. There, the virus will stay in an inactive, dormant state, neither replicating nor presenting any signs that it’s even there.
On occasion, the dormant virus may suddenly reactivate, starting the replication process anew. When this happens, the virus will travel back through the nerve to the surface of the skin. With this, many of the infected skin cells are killed, causing blisters to form. The eruption of these blisters creates the characteristic ulcers that are recognized as cold sores or genital herpes.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?
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Herpes Is A Common Infection
Herpes is a super-common infection that stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and about 1 out of 6 Americans has genital herpes. So chances are a few people you know are living with herpes.
Theres no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, its not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
Why Have False Positive Tests Been Used As An Argument Against Routine Testing For Genital Herpes But Not For Other Stds Which Can Also Have False Positives
False positive test results are test results that say a person has a disease or condition when they do not actually have it. False positive results can occur with many diagnostic tests, including STD tests. The chances of false positive results increase as the likelihood of the infection decreases in the person being tested. False positive HSV-2 results can happen, especially in people who are at low risk for a herpes infection. Also, we do not know if people who test positive for herpes will change their sexual behavior as a result of a positive test. This tells us that the harm of a possible false positive test may be a greater concern than the benefits of an actual diagnosis. Unlike curable STDs, such as chlamydia, herpes infections are life-long, so it is especially important to avoid a false positive test.
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Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
What Causes Cold Sores In A Child
The most common strain of the virus that causes cold sores is herpes simplex virus 1. The herpes simplex virus in a cold sore is contagious. It can be spread to others by kissing, sharing cups or utensils, sharing washcloths or towels, or by touching the cold sore before it is healed. The virus can also be spread to others 24 to 48 hours before the cold sore appears.
Once a child is infected with the herpes simplex virus, the virus becomes inactive for long periods of time. It can then become active at any time and cause cold sores. The cold sores usually don’t last longer than 2 weeks. Hot sun, cold wind, illness, or a weak immune system can cause cold sores to occur.
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Genital Herpes Is Common Shouldnt Cdc Recommend Testing For Everyone
CDC recommends herpes testing for people who have genital symptoms to confirm if they have it. Testing allows a healthcare provider to talk with patients about what to expect in the future. This includes talking about medications that help with symptoms. Providers can also tell patients how to lower the risk of transmitting herpes to sex partner.
CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms in most situations. This is because of the limits of a herpes blood test and the possibility of a wrong test result. The chances of wrong test results are higher for people who are at low risk of infection.
Blood tests might be useful if:
- You have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes, or
- You have a sex partner with genital herpes, or
- Your provider found signs of herpes, but you still need a test to confirm it.
If you are sexually active, talk openly and honestly with your healthcare provider about what tests are right for you. These tips can help.
What Triggers A Shingles Flare
Shingles can be triggered by a number of factors, and sensitivities to each factor can vary from person to person.
Things that weaken the immune system, such as stress, certain medications, or other health conditions, can cause shingles flare-ups, as can certain foods that contain an amino acid that helps the virus to replicate.
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Do Symptoms Differ Depending On Location
Youll most likely notice similar blisters and prodromal symptoms, no matter what type of the virus you have or where it shows up. The two different types of HSV .
The only major difference, of course, is where you experience symptoms:
- If HSV affects your genitals, you might notice pain or burning during urination.
- If HSV affects your mouth, you might have difficulty eating spicy or acidic foods while you have open sores.
Theres also a slight difference in where oral blisters appear, depending on whether theyre primary or recurrent. During the first episode, blisters may appear on your mouth and lips, but during later episodes, theyre more likely to
How Do You Get Herpes Causes And Risk Factors
You get herpes by touching a herpes sore or the skin, lips, genital fluids, or saliva of a person with an oral or genital herpes infection. Herpes can be spread even when there are no visible blisters or sores.
This article discusses how herpes is spread. It also explains who is at high risk for herpes and how you can protect yourself.
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What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
Is There A Link Between Genital Herpes And Hiv
It is easier for a person with genital herpes to get or transmit HIV infection.
If a person with a herpes infection is genitally exposed to HIV, their risk of acquiring HIV is than someone without genital herpes. This is because genital herpes can cause breaks in the skin and make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection.
A person with HIV and genital herpes is more likely to transmit HIV to sex partners.
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Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last
If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.
If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.
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Herpes Simplex Treatment And Management
Herpes simplex infections can’t be cured, but treatments are available to reduce the number and length of outbreaks. The risk of transmitting the infection to others is also reduced.
Daily antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, may be prescribed. During an outbreak, self-care strategies can also help manage pain and discomfort.
For an oral herpes outbreak featuring cold sores or blisters around the mouth, do the following:
- Clean the affected area and pat dry
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers or ointments with ingredients such as benzocaine or lidocaine
- Apply OTC antiviral cold sore medication to the lesions to help them heal quicker
- Use petroleum jelly to keep skin from drying out or cracking
- Avoid acidic, spicy, or salty foods that may irritate your lesions
Self-care for a genital herpes outbreak may include:
- Use OTC pain relievers or cool compresses to help manage pain
- Wash affected area with mild soap and gently dry
- Wear loose fitting, cotton underwear
How Can I Help Prevent Cold Sores In My Child
If someone in your household has herpes simplex, you can protect your child by making sure he or she is not exposed. Keep in mind that the virus may be in saliva even when there are no cold sores. Tell your child not to kiss, share cups or utensils, or share washcloths or towels with the person. Tell your child not to touch a cold sore.
If your child has a cold sore, make sure he or she does not:
Touch or rub the cold sore
The healthcare provider may advise keeping your child home from school during the first infection of herpes simplex virus.
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Who Is At Risk For Developing Herpes Simplex Infections
Anyone can contract HSV, regardless of age. If youre exposed to HSV, youre likely to contract the virus.
Remember, HSV is very common. But because its often asymptomatic, plenty of people living with the virus never have an episode or realize theyve contracted HSV.
You may have a higher chance of contracting the virus if you:
- have a sexual partner who lives with HSV
- were assigned female at birth . suggests more AFAB folks than people assigned male at birth develop HSV, but this could also mean AFAB folks are more likely to experience symptoms.
- are immunocompromised
Some older research suggests HSV-1 antibodies may offer AFAB folks some protection against contracting HSV-2. Still, many people living with one type of the virus do contract the other type later on. You wont contract the same type of the virus again, though, since it remains dormant in your body once you acquire it.
You may have a slightly higher chance of contracting genital HSV if you have sex without using condoms or other barrier methods. Keep in mind, though, that condoms and other barrier methods wont always cover the infection site, since sores can appear on the buttocks or inner thighs.
What Triggers Outbreaks
Certain triggers can cause the herpes virus to reactivate. This is known as a recurrence and can happen even if you have a healthy immune system.
There are several known triggers that can stimulate recurrence, including:
- Physical stress, such as an infection, an illness, or an injury
- Persistent emotional stress or anxiety for greater than one week
- Exposure to ultraviolet light , excessive heat, or cold
- Hormonal changes, such as during menstruation
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What Is Herpes Simplex
Many people live with asymptomatic HSV, which means they have the virus without ever having an outbreak or active episode of herpes.
Others might experience occasional episodes of small, fluid-filled blisters or sores. These blisters most commonly appear on the genitals or mouth and lips, but they can also show up on hands or fingers and other parts of your body.
According to estimates from the World Health Organization :
- about 67 percent of the worlds population under age 50 had oral or genital HSV-1 in 2016
- about 13 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 49 had HSV-2 in 2016
Other research notes that over 90 percent of adults have HSV-1 antibodies by the time they reach their 50s.
Experts have yet to find a cure for herpes, but antivirals and home remedies can help ease the severity of symptoms. Antiviral medication may also lead to fewer herpes episodes.
Read on to learn more about the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2, plus get the details on key signs, diagnosis, and treatment.
Risk Factors And Complications
Many people are exposed to HSV-1 as children, often between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old.
There are more specific risk factors for genital herpes. You may be at a higher risk if you:
- Are assigned female at birth
- Have had many sexual partners
- Had sex for the first time at a young age
- Have had another STI
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What Happens If You Dont Get Herpes Treatment
The good news about herpes is that its not deadly or even very dangerous. It might be annoying, but herpes doesnt get worse over time or cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
If you dont get treated for herpes, you might keep having regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.
There are a few reasons people may decide not to get treatment. They might not have that many outbreaks, or their outbreaks dont really bother them. Or maybe theyre not having sex, so theyre not that worried about having herpes right now. Whatever your situation is, getting treatment for herpes is your choice.