How Long Before The First Outbreak
If someone has contracted HSV but not yet experienced a herpes outbreak, truthfully theres no 100% accurate way to determine when one will occur. An outbreak can occur within a week of exposure, or years later.
First, consider that everyones body is different, as is their immune system. If a person has a strong immune system, then it can be possible for an outbreak to occur years after contracting the virus.
Whats more, some strains of HSV are more forceful and aggravating than others.
There is what is considered typical, and that is that people often have their first outbreak two weeks after contracting it. But this just isnt reliable, because its equally accepted that people can often have outbreaks after two years.
Thats why so many people will have trouble pinpointing when they got herpes at all. There are varied statistics and possibilities:
Stress is a common trigger for an outbreak.
Ruling Out Conditions That Resemble Oral Herpes
Simple canker sores are often confused with the cold sores of HSV-1. Canker sores frequently crop up singly or in groups on the inside of the mouth, or on or underneath the tongue. Their cause is unknown, and they are common in perfectly healthy people. They are usually white or grayish crater-like ulcers with a sharp edge and a red rim. They usually heal within 2 weeks without treatment.
This aphthous ulcer is located in front of and just below the bottom teeth.
Oral candidiasis is a yeast infection that causes a whitish overgrowth in the mouth. It is most common in infants, but can appear in people of all ages, particularly people taking antibiotics or those with impaired immune systems.
Other conditions that may be confused with oral herpes include herpangina , sore throat caused by strep or other bacteria, and infectious mononucleosis.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
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How Long Does Herpes Last On A Surface
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First Signs And Symptoms
The first signs and symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak are usually a tingling or itching feeling in the affected area. You may also notice some pain, discomfort or a burning feeling.
After a couple of days, you may start to notice some small blisters appearing. There may be just one or you may have several. Over time, you may be able to see the blisters filling with fluid. The blisters will eventually burst, leading to ulcers forming. As the ulcers form, you may find it painful whilst peeing .
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What Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The herpes virus causes small blisters to appear. After a few days, these blisters burst and turn into ulcers which can be red and painful. Over time, the ulcers crust over and eventually disappear.
There are 2 types of Herpes simplex virus: herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 . HSV-1 can cause oral herpes or genital herpes. HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes.
The first time you are infected with genital herpes, you may feel unwell with a fever and flu-like symptoms. This is then followed by blisters that develop in the genital area. Often though, genital herpes does not cause any symptoms and you may not even know you have the infection.
After the first infection, the virus lies dormant in the affected area. Later on, the virus can be reactivated, leading to a herpes outbreak. You may have several genital herpes outbreaks after a first infection. Or, you may have no further symptoms or genital herpes outbreaks after the first infection.
Im Pregnant What Do I Need To Know
To get the best care, tell your doctor you have genital herpes, because it could make you more likely to have a miscarriage or give birth too soon.
Its possible to pass along the virus to your baby. For infants, it can be life-threatening. Your doctor can talk to you about how to lower the chances that this will happen.
If you have an outbreak while youre pregnant, your doctor can give you medicine to treat your symptoms and stop them sooner.
Your doctor may give you a drug to prevent an outbreak as your due date gets closer. This is because your baby could get herpes by passing through your birth canal if youre having an outbreak when you go into labor. If thats a possibility, your doctor will most likely want to do a C-section, which is surgery to deliver the baby.
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Genital Herpes: The Painful Facts About A Tricky Virus
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
A young woman* came into my office complaining of horrible pain and itching in her genital area. She had recently started dating, and her current boyfriend was her first sexual contact. He, however, had had other partners before her. She had telltale sores and tests confirmed that the cause was genital herpes.
Genital herpes is far and away the most common sexually transmitted infection that we see in primary care. I find myself explaining the diagnosis to distressed patients far more often than I would like.
There are two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Generally speaking, HSV-1 is responsible for those annoying cold sores that can pop up during times of stress or lack of sleep. HSV-2 usually causes genital sores. Many people dont realize that HSV-1 can cause genital ulcers as well, though these tend to be less severe and less likely to recur.
It can take as little as a few days and up to a week after a person has been exposed before any symptoms appear. First, there will be redness and tingling, followed by painful bumps that progress to fluid-filled blisters. Eventually, these burst to form ulcers which then crust over, healing over several weeks. HSV-2 infections can be more severe, causing terrible pain, as well as flu-like symptoms, and even inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain .
How Long Does A Herpes Outbreak Last
Herpes outbreaks usually last for about one to two weeks, though the first outbreak after infection may last longer. The symptoms typically go away on their own without treatment. However, there are at-home remedies and prescription treatments which may help to ease symptoms and shorten the length of outbreaks. Herpes outbreaks may continue to occur, but many people find that they become shorter and less severe over time.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Herpes
Some risk factors for herpes may include:
-Having unprotected sex
-Having sex with multiple partners
-Kissing someone with a herpes virus that is active
-Abuse of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs
-Spreading the virus by touching a cold sore and then touching something else
-Having an autoimmune disorder or illness, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
-Poor eating habits that cause nutritional deficiencies
How Long Does It Take For Symptoms Of Herpes To Appear
The primary symptom of a herpes outbreak is sores that resemble blisters, called herpes lesions, on the mouth or genitals.
In addition, people may also experience the following symptoms prior to the outbreak:
- pain and redness, especially around the area the outbreak will occur
- itching and tingling, primarily in the outbreak area
- flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, or swollen lymph nodes
Most of the symptoms that occur before an outbreak indicate that the virus is replicating. Symptoms are usually the worst during the first herpes outbreak.
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Some people with the herpes virus are asymptomatic, which means that they dont experience any physical symptoms of the disease. This doesnt mean that they cant spread the disease, however.
Anyone who has the herpes virus, whether symptomatic or not, can spread the virus to others.
If you have the herpes virus and your body has produced antibodies, it can be detected on a blood test, even if you have no symptoms. The only time the virus might not be detected on a test is if youve been tested too early.
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If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
Talking To Your Healthcare Provider About Herpes Discharge
Talking about changes in your genital health can be uncomfortable. Most people consider these topics private and have difficulty discussing them, especially with problems like a foul odor or blisters. There is also a stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections.
You can only confirm a diagnosis of herpes by testing the fluid from blisters or having a blood test done by a healthcare provider. They are trained to care for all types of bodies, organs, and diseases. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to protect your health and your sexual partners.
While most outbreaks can be managed without medical help, you should call your healthcare provider if your herpes outbreak comes with symptoms like:
Some of the best ways to prevent the spread of herpes are to:
- Abstain from sexual contact
- Avoid sexual contact with infected partners
Barrier methods like condoms can reduce the transmission of the herpes virus, but do not prevent it. While herpes can be transmitted at any time it is most contagious during periods of active symptoms. You should avoid sexual contact if you or an infected partner are experiencing an outbreak.
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Can You Get Herpes On Your Tongue
While you may associate herpes type 1 with cold sores on your lips, it is possible to suffer from the symptoms of herpes on your tongue. This is referred to as oral herpes and usually affects more of your mouth than just your tongue. More than half of all adults in the United States are thought to have oral herpes.
Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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Where Do Symptoms Appear
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates , it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak.
Genital herpes, regardless of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. For more on oral-facial herpes, see the oral herpes page.
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How To Check If You Have Herpes
Many people mistake herpes symptoms for a skin rash or experience such a mild outbreak that they dont become aware theyre infected until subsequent outbreaks occur.
For more information, see our guide to Jock Itch vs. Herpes: Differences & Treatments.
Its also possible that you might experience no outbreaks at all after being infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Luckily, there are several ways to check whether or not you have herpes.The best and most obvious way is to talk to your doctor about herpes testing. There are several herpes testing methods in use today, ranging from swab tests that check for viral activity to blood tests that check for the presence of IgG and/or IgM antibodies.
Each testing method has strengths and weaknesses, meaning your doctor will recommend the best option for your symptoms and potential infection type.
Most of the time, youll need to wait 12 to 16 weeks from the last possible exposure date before taking a herpes test. This gives your immune system time to produce a large enough amount of antibodies for an accurate test result.
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Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
People with HSV-2 infection have an increased risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus if they have sex with an HIV-infected partner. Taking suppressive therapy does not decrease this risk.
If a woman is pregnant and infected with HSV, it can be passed to the fetus during birth while passing through the womans infected birth canal. This is most likely to occur if a woman first becomes infected with HSV during pregnancy and in a woman who has her first outbreak late in pregnancy. But it also can occur during a recurrent outbreak in a woman who was infected before pregnancy, although the risk is much lower.
If you have sores or warning signs of an outbreak at the time of delivery, you may need to have a cesarean delivery to reduce chance of infection. The decision depends on many factors, including where the sores are on your body and whether the fetus would come into contact with them during delivery.
Yes, in most cases. The herpes virus cannot be passed to a baby through breast milk. However, the baby could get infected by touching a sore on your body. Make sure any sores that the baby could come into contact with are covered when you hold your baby or while breastfeeding. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after feeding your baby. If you have sores on your breast, you should not breastfeed your baby from that breast.
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Symptoms Of Herpes Discharge
The primary symptoms of HSV-1 infection are burning and stinging of the cold sores caused by the virus. In HSV-2, many symptoms can appear with a flare-up, like:
A herpes infection in active stages can cause several symptoms, and the first infection is usually the most severe. A few symptoms can cause noticeable discharge.
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.11 In addition, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.11
There is currently no commercially available vaccine that is protective against genital herpes infection. Candidate vaccines are in clinical trials.
How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex
Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.
To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:
- Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
- Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
- Speaking with a therapist.
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Onset Of First Outbreak
The first outbreak of oral herpes usually develops within about one to three weeks after infection. This initial outbreak may last for up to three weeks.
With genital herpes, the first outbreak usually occurs within about two to 20 days. Similar to oral herpes, the initial outbreak may last as long as three weeks.
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.
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