Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
Is There A Cure For Herpes Simplex
There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, its a lifelong infection.
What is the outlook for people with herpes simplex?
For many people, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe. Many outbreaks are less frequent and milder after the first year of infection. Some people may have only one outbreak and never have another again.
How Do You Get Herpes Causes Symptoms And Prevention
Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.
Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.
Maybe you think you have herpes and youre wondering how you got itor youre wondering how to avoid getting it. Either way, theres a lot you should know about the herpes simplex virus to help prevent its spread. So, how do you get herpes, and how can you avoid spreading it to others?
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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.
Is There A Test For Genital Herpes
Yes. A doctor can take a sample from what appears to be a herpes sore and send it to a lab to be examined. You can also have a blood test. The blood test looks for antibodies to the virus that your immune system would have made when you were infected. HSV-2 almost always infects the genitals, so if antibodies to HSV-2 are detected in the blood, you probably have genital herpes.
A blood test that shows antibodies to HSV-1 means you could have genital or oral herpes. That’s because oral herpes, typically caused by HSV-1, can be spread to the genitals during oral sex.
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What’s Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
How Herpes Is Spread
You are most likely to spread herpes when you have a herpes sore or blister. But many people have time periods when they can still spread the virus even though they dont have symptoms.
And some people spread the infection because they dont realize that they have a herpes sore. Or they may have different symptoms, such as painful urination, that they dont realize are part of an outbreak.
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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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Avoiding Passing Genital Herpes To A Partner
If you have herpes, you can follow some simple measures to avoid passing the virus on to your partner, and to continue to have a healthy and happy sex life. These include:
- telling your partner if you have herpes
- learning to recognise the warning signs that an episode is starting
- not have sex during an episode of herpes
- avoiding direct contact with your sores or blisters and another person
- avoiding kissing and oral sex when you or your partner has cold sores around the mouth
If you have frequent episodes of herpes then it is worth talking to your GP or sexual health clinic about longer term treatment which may also reduce the chance of you passing on the virus to your partner.
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
Myth: If You Get A Cold Sore You Have Genital Herpes
Cold sores and genital herpes are two distinct strains of the herpes simplex virus. Many people get cold sores, but that doesnt mean they have an Sexually transmitted diseases .
Herpes simplex virus type 2 is the form of herpes categorized as a sexually transmitted infection , and is the main cause of genital herpes. It doesnt usually cause cold sores, which are caused by HSV-1. There is no cure for HSV-2, so its a lifelong disease.
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Myth: Ive Never Had An Outbreak So I Definitely Dont Have Herpes
Unfortunately, the lack of a visible outbreak doesnt mean youre herpes-free. Many people infected with the virus never experience an outbreak, Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, tells Health. And when they do, it frequently isnt recognized. This explains why, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 87.4% of infected individuals have no clue.
Outbreaks can be very mild and even confused with things like heat rash, jock itch, yeast infections, allergic reactions, Fred Wyand, director of communications for the American Sexual Health Association , tells Health. So while some cases do involve pronounced symptoms, most never do.
Pimples Test Negative For All These Tests
What do I do now?
Once you successfully identify the nature of your sores, which should be an easy task now that you know what herpes looks like, the management is not that complex either. Since pimples are a hygiene issue, it only means a more thorough cleaning with effective products such as acne ointments, antibacterial soap and creams, oil ointments for inflammation, and patting with a warm, wet cloth a few times a day.
On the contrary, if you have even a little doubt that your sores may be herpes, you should visit your primary care physician and get an anti-viral prescription. Herpes may be incurable but anti-viral is more than enough to stop it from affecting your quality of life at all. Early identification is the key to a better life.
I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.
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Type Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are four main types of diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose herpes. Your doctor will determine which type of test to use based on whether an outbreak is present or not.
If youre experiencing what you believe to be a herpes outbreak, your doctor can use a viral culture test or virus antigen detection test. If youre not experiencing symptoms, you can have an antibody test.
- Viral culture test.This test is used to determine if a sore contains the herpes virus. This test can sometimes produce a false-negative, meaning that it may not detect the virus even though its present.
- Virus antigen detection test. This test is used to determine if antigens to the herpes virus are present in a sore or lesion.
- Antibody test. If youre not experiencing an outbreak yet but still believe you may have been exposed, you can opt to have an antibody test performed. This test will only show a positive result if the antibodies to the virus have been developed. Therefore, this test isnt necessarily recommended for recent exposure.
- Polymerase chain reaction test. With this test, a healthcare provider can screen a sample of your blood or tissue from a sore. They can use this to determine if HSV is present and which type you have.
How Do You Get Rid Of A Herpes Outbreak Fast
The most effective treatment method is prescription medication from a doctor. This can be in the form of topical cream or an oral medication.
If you suspect you have herpes and would like to speak to a physician and/or get tested and treated online, book an appointment with a PlushCare doctor now.
We accept insurance and appointments are available every 15 minutes. Our doctors can order lab tests for a herpes test and diagnose you based on the results.
If you have already been diagnosed with herpes they can prescribe you a treatment plan, including any necessary medications.
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Can Herpes Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent getting herpes is to not have sex with anyone who has the virus. It can be spread even when the person who has it isnt showing any symptoms. If your partner has herpes, there is no way of knowing for sure that you wont get it.
If you are infected, there is no time that is completely safe to have sex and not spread herpes. If you have herpes, you must tell your sex partner. You should avoid having sex if you have any sores. Herpes can spread from one person to another very easily when sores are present.
You should use condoms every time you have sex. They can help reduce the risk of spreading herpes. But its still possible to spread or get herpes if youre using a condom.
Tips To Soothe The Pain
- Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
- Place lukewarm or cool cloths on the sore place.
- Take lukewarm baths.
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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Pick The Right Setting
In addition to language, the setting can affect the outcome, too. Don’t interrupt what your partner is doing to break the news. That is, don’t call them at work, or barge into a room and say, “Hey, we have to talk.” That’s how you might deliver news of a death in the family or start an argument.
The right setting is a relaxing one, just the two of you, where there won’t be any distractions. A conversation over a quiet dinner or a walk in the park is preferable to a bowling alley or the supermarket.
The worst time to tell, other than after having sex, is during foreplay or when your clothes are already off. That would not only spoil the mood, but it could also annoy your partner.
It is usually best to let the topic come up naturally in conversation. That way, it will seem less like a bombshell and more like any other development in your life. For example, you could say, “Just so you know, my doctor called me yesterday with some test results, and said I have the virus that causes genital herpes.”
If you’ve never slept with the person before, it’s not impolite to ask if they have any sexually transmitted diseases. You could start the conversation by being the first one to ask. It’s possible that they might start giving you the same herpes information you had been preparing to give.
Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
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Tingling Or Pain Before Blisters Form
If you know youve been exposed to herpes, you might want to watch for prodromal symptoms. About 50% of people will have symptoms such as itching, tingling, or pain on genital skin before blisters or sores appear, says Dr. Shim. Usually youll experience an outbreak later, but its possible to have this tingling or itching and have no sores show up, she says.
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Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
Women with herpes before pregnancy can usually expect to have a healthy baby and a vaginal delivery.
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, there’s a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes.
This can be fatal, but most babies recover with antiviral treatment.
The risk of your baby getting neonatal herpes is low if you have had genital herpes before.
It’s higher if you get genital herpes for the first time in pregnancy.
Herpes On The Face Of Pregnant Women
Herpes on the mothers face also poses a danger to her newborn baby.
Newborns immune systems are weak and infection with the herpes simplex virus can cause death.
A mother with herpes on her face should take extreme measures to prevent her baby from getting it.
If herpes affects the mothers lips, she can use hydrocolloid patches to reduce the time of the outbreak and prevent the baby from coming into contact with the outbreak area and its secretions.
Women with newborn children who have had herpes outbreaks on their faces should avoid kissing their baby and for no reason kissing their baby on his or her face.
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