Myth: You Always Get A Herpes Outbreak Soon After Becoming Infected
Herpes is a sneaky infection. It can exist in the body for months or even years without showing symptoms, but itâs still contagious nonetheless.
If you do develop an outbreak, it will most likely happen two to twelve days after initial exposure to the virus. After the blisters break, they can take up to four weeks to heal.
Fortunately, subsequent outbreaks tend to be less intense. Recurring outbreaks are common but donât last nearly as long. These sores tend to heal within three to seven days, and the number of outbreak periods may even decrease over time.
Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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Ease Their Concerns About Transmission
Let them know that its possible to have sex without their getting it. Educate them that in fact, theres actually a very low rate of transmission if you avoid sex during outbreaks. That that low rate becomes 30% lower if you use condoms. And much lower if you use Valtrex as suppressive therapy and condoms. In fact, the chances are vanishingly small according to studies done by Valtrex about transmission rates under various conditions. At that point, its downright unlikely.
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How Is Genital Herpes Managed Or Treated
If you have mild symptoms or infrequent outbreaks, you might not need or want treatment. During an outbreak, these steps can ease symptoms:
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill, intravenous injection or skin cream. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
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How To Prevent Herpes
But most people have sex at some point in their lives, so knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using protection like condoms and dental dams when you have sex helps to lower your risk of getting an STD.
Herpes can live on areas of your body that arent protected by condoms , so condoms wont always protect you from herpes. But they do lower your chances of getting herpes.
Dont have sex with anyone during a herpes outbreak, because thats when it spreads most easily. But herpes can also spread when there are no sores or symptoms, so its important to use condoms and dental dams, even if everything looks and feels A-OK.
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Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
Can You Pop Herpes Blisters
Like pimples, you may be tempted to pop a cold sore or a herpes blister, but by popping, you are only doing more harm. Popping a cold sore, a genital herpes blister, or a pimple increases the risk that you will worsen the existing infection, introduce a secondary infection, or irritate your skin further. Popping can also make it more likely to form a scar.
It is best to leave the pimples or blisters alone to heal on their own, but if they are too uncomfortable or painful, talk to your doctor.
Dont Risk It!
Although you can likely tell herpes sores and pimples apart just by looking at them, a medical diagnosis will let you know for sure.
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How Is Dating With Herpes Different From Dating Without Herpes
If you have herpes, you can still have a successful dating life. The key difference between dating with or without herpes is that, when you are living with herpes, its important to eventually disclose that information to your partner, particularly if you plan to have sex. Sullivan tells us that those living with herpes should first talk with their partner and discuss what you are both comfortable with. You can still have fun as long as you are safe. When you disclose your STD is up to you, but most advisors suggest the sooner the better. Then you and your partner can educate yourselves on how to have sex safely and comfortably.
How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
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Should I Seek Medical Care
Herpes does not affect the ability to get pregnant, but in connection with childbirth, there is a small risk of transmitting herpes to the newborn child, who can then become very sick. The risk is greatest when you have herpes for the first time. It is important to consult with his doctor if you suspect that you have received a herpes outbreak during late pregnancy.
While it is very rare, you can get bacteria in the wounds that are formed when herpes blisters burst. In addition, an unusual complication can occur the first time you get herpes. You will have a mild meningitis, and then get severe headaches and stiff neck. In both cases, you should contact your healthcare provider.
You can read more about how to get tested for and if you have genital herpes here
Be Comfortable With Yourself
If youve accepted and come to terms with your diagnosis, that makes it much easier to tell someone you have herpes or any STI. When youre comfortable, that comes across. This attitude can be incredibly reassuring to your love interest.
If you arent comfortable with yourself, that will come across, too your nerves or insecurity could make them nervous.
This is not to say to not show any feeling. Its okay to admit that its embarrassing. Youre human, and this will help them understand and empathize with you.
Just go easy on yourself so others can too. After all, everyone comes with baggage, and a lot of them are still great catches.
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How Common Is Herpes
The prevalent statistics you encounter in drug commercials, sex ed, and PSAs are inconsistent and often confusing. Thats because herpes infections are much more complicated than we paint them in our SNL sketches and stand-up routines.
Heres the best statistic Ive seen. Its from ProjectAccept.org:
Around 75% of Americans carry HSV 1 or HSV 2 somewhere on their body. That virus can be transmitted to any surface of someone elses body, via physical contact. If it does transmit, theres an ~80% chance that they wont recognize any symptoms from the infection. However they, too, will retain the virus for life and be contagious.
Thats a lot to parse, but boil it down to this: far more than 1 in 6 Americans between the age of 14 and 49 have HSV-2. 1 in 6 means that if youve had three sexual partners in your life, then theres a 50:50 chance that one of them has had herpes and an even greater chance that one of them has had a partner with herpes.
So, when I tell you that your partner disclosing to you that sheand therefore maybe youhave herpes, I really mean that its not that earth-shattering. Not just compared to everyone you know, but compared to your own life up to this point. Whats unique about this situation is that one of you knows and is talking about it openly.
Your Survival Guide To Dating With Herpes
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Dating with herpes can be a challenging experience. While the virus is very common , finding out that you have herpes can have a significant effect on your self-esteem and interest in meeting new people.
If youve recently found out that you have herpes, or recently found out you might be considering dating someone with HSV-1 or HSV-2, its vital that you stay positive. With the right combination of medication, conversation and understanding, its still very possible to form and maintain normal romantic relationships.
In this guide, well cover the essentials of dating with herpes, from coming to terms with the fact that you have the virus to disclosing herpes to your partner, educating them about the virus and reducing your risk of transmission.
For the most part, well focus on genital herpes , rather than oral herpes. However, the information provided below is relevant regardless of your herpes infection type.
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When It Comes To Dating With Herpes You Dont Have To Be Alone
But that doesnt mean you should be alone the rest of yourlife. Youre right to get back into the dating world. Just by looking thisarticle up online, youre on the right path.
Everyone whether if its because theyre too fat, tooshort, too ugly, or too nice has something thats holding them back frombeing the perfect partner. No one is 100%, but we all make do with what wehave. And, often, thats enough.
Maybe being too fat takes 10% off your dating potential.Maybe being too short takes 20% off your dating potential.
And maybe having herpes hurts your dating potential as well.
But no matter what your handicap is, whether its real orimagined, keep this in mind: Its not 100%. Youll always havepotential. Youll always have something to work with, even if its just10%. There will always be someone out there for you, no matter who youare or what problems you have.
Someone out there has done better with worse circumstances.
So, when it comes to finding a partner and not just communicating your predicament, keep in mind that no one is perfect, and many people are willing to accept you exactly as you are.
When Are Cold Sores Contagious
Youre most likely to spread the virus when you have symptoms. These include blister-like sores in and around your mouth. For many people, a tingling sensation or itch precedes a visible outbreak.
Cold sores usually heal within seven to 10 days. But, says Dr. Anthony, that doesnt mean contact is entirely safe afterward. You can shed the virus even when you dont have any lesions. Its less likely, but theres still a risk.
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Before You Tell Them Practice
The one person youll definitely need to have the chat with is your sexual partner/s. This is very important even if you rarely experience herpes outbreaks, as genital herpes can be spread from an infected person into an uninfected person even without any visible outbreak symptoms.
Coming out as herpes positive can feel stressful and difficult, especially when its directed at a person you care about and with whom youd like a romantic or sexual future. Luckily, dating with herpes doesnt have to be such a big deal if you know how to address it.
One way to get over the nervousness of telling a partner you have herpes is to practice ahead of time. Make note of the key points you want to include and practice the script a few times in front of the mirror until you feel comfortable talking about.
How Will A Partner React
Some may overreact. Some wont bat an eye. Since many people have genital herpes or have heard about it, many people wont be shocked or surprised. From the stories that weve heard at the Herpes Resource Center, most people will react well, and will appreciate your honesty and respect for the relationship and their wellbeing. While a negative reaction is possible, this doesnt necessarily mean a bad ending. If that person values you as an individual and is interested in a relationship, something as minor as herpes shouldnt stand in the way. If it does, then that person obviously wasnt a good fit in the first place.
Whatever happens, try to be flexible. Give your partner time to respond, think about what youve said and absorb the information. Remember when you first found out? It took you time to adjust, too.
You dont have to be overly concerned about protecting a partners feelings. And, you may want to reconsider a relationship where you have to do all the emotional work. A safer sex discussion might help you find out if this partner is a good candidate for your love and attention.
A few people are going to react negatively. It wont matter what you say or how you say it. Remember, these people are the exception not the rule. If a partner decides not to pursue a relationship with you because you have herpes, it is best to know this now. There are many people who will be attracted to you for who you arewith or without herpes.
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How To Check If You Have Asymptomatic Herpes
If you have no herpes symptoms but believe you might have been exposed to the virus, you can take a herpes test to verify whether or not youre infected.
The most accurate herpes testing method for asymptomatic people is an IgG test, which checks for the presence of IgG antibodies in your blood. These antibodies can signal a herpes infection using certain testing methods, they can also be used to differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
IgG antibodies can take several months to form after a herpes infection, meaning youll typically need to wait for 12 to 16 weeks before taking an IgG test to make sure you receive an accurate result.
If youre concerned that you might have asymptomatic herpes, the best approach is to speak to your doctor about testing options. Your doctor will be able to schedule a test based on the date of your potential exposure to the virus and provide you with an accurate diagnosis. If you discover you do have HSV-1 or HSV-2, the most important thing is to not panic. These viruses are extremely common, and there are a variety of anti-viral medications out there to help minimize the severity and requency of outbreaks. Most notably, vacyclovir.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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What Can I Do If I Have Herpes Simplex 2
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing theyâll always have the virus and can give it to others. But you arent alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the U.S. and worldwide. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom or dental dam , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should ask your doctor if this is the right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. People with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your healthcare provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
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