When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you’ve been diagnosed with herpes, there are some circumstances where you may benefit from medical care. These may include having:
- An outbreak that isn’t helped by treatment and self-care strategies
Self-care strategies during outbreaks can help with pain and discomfort, including:
- Keeping the affected area clean and dry
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers
- Place cold compresses over affected areas
For at-home care for cold sores specifically:
- Apply non-prescription antiviral ointment
- Avoid eating spicy, acidic, or salty foods
- Use petroleum jelly to keep surrounding skin moisturized
How Long Do Herpes Outbreaks Last With Medication
Depending on the health of the patient and the type of outbreaks , untreated outbreaks can last from 1 to 6 weeks. While the symptoms will heal by itself, however with the use of antiviral medications, they can significantly decrease the recovery time for a herpes outbreak in addition to decreasing the occurrence of future outbreaks.
With medication, outbreaks typically last less than a week. Daily consumption of antiviral herpes medication as a form of suppressive therapy can also aid to reduce recurring outbreaks by at least 70% to 80% per year.
Fever Blisters And Cold Sores Are Oral Herpes Too
Fever blisters and cold sores are just different names for oral herpes, and theyve been around for a very long time. Legend has it that in ancient Rome, the emperor Tiberius banned kissing at public events because of an outbreak of fever blisters. In other words, they even knew back then how contagious fever blisters are.
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid contact with a person who has a cold sore and refrain from sharing eating utensils, lip balm, and the like. Note that someone with oral herpes can give you genital herpes if they perform oral sex on you. Avoid kissing and oral sex when outbreaks are present.
There is no cure for fever blisters and no vaccine to prevent them, although research into preventing and treating them is ongoing. If you do get oral herpes, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medication and topical anesthetics to relieve symptoms. Some people also choose to take antiviral medication to make cold sores go away faster.
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How To Stop A Herpes Outbreak Before It Happens Without Medication
In order to get rid of herpes without medication, it is important to recognise the individual triggers that result in a flare-up. While these root causes vary from person to person, common identifiers exist that â with a little patience and practise â can aid in the repression of onset symptoms. Whilst the following can help to provide symptomatic relief, they are not able to cure herpes, and it is not possible to cure herpes naturally forever.
Common triggers include:
- StressIndividuals suffering from high stress tend to exhibit herpes symptoms with higher frequency. Efforts to combat cortisol-releasing activities or events will result in diminished or delayed flare-ups.
- Feeling run-downAs mentioned, self-care is an important, holistic approach to fighting the effects of genital herpes. Being run-down, overtired or anxious can impact immune system function and lead to an onset of blisters or the fatigue and irritation associated with a herpes episode.
- SmokingThe act of smoking during an active herpes outbreak slows the healing process, as smoking weakens the bodyâs natural healing response. In the case of HSV-1 cold sores, the duration of presentation on the lips are delayed by days or weeks. In a healthy body, red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the blood. In a smokerâs body, carbon monoxide and other chemicals debilitate red blood cells, slowing their natural healing properties.
Transmissible Even When Dormant
Its possible to transmit herpes to another person whether you experience an outbreak or not.
Transmission with no symptoms is due to asymptomatic viral shedding. For example, research has found that in people with HSV-1, the virus can be reactivated in the body and allow for transmission to others without any lesions present. HSV-2 also can be transmitted without symptoms present.
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Are Canker Sores Caused By The Herpes Virus
Canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus or by any other virus. In fact, the cause of canker sores is unknown, although they may be triggered by a minor injury in your mouth from dental work or brushing too hard, an allergy, a vitamin B deficiency, stress, or a food intolerance. Some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, may also cause canker sores, and they often occur in families, so it’s possible genetics or environment play a part, too.
Canker sores typically appear as small, round, or oval whitish sores with a red border, according to the Mayo Clinic. They typically occur on the tongue, inside the cheeks, inside the lips, or on the gums. The medical term for a canker sore is aphthous ulcer. Canker sores can be quite painful, but they usually heal within about two weeks without leaving any scarring.
Unlike cold sores, which usually occur outside the mouth, canker sores occur only inside the mouth. Like cold sores, canker sores are recurrent, but they are not contagious: You cant give a canker sore to another person. Canker sores occur more often in teenagers and young adults, and they are more common in women than men.
Other Impacts Of Genital Herpes
Its important to also remember that there are mental and social impacts of having an incurable STI. Many people with recurrent genital herpes symptoms may feel stigmatized or fearful of pursuing sexual relationships. But people should remember, while genital herpes is not curable, it is manageable, and the outbreaks often decrease over time.
Most people live healthy happy lives with genital herpes .
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I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
Initial Outbreak Of Genital Herpes
A person’s first outbreak of HSV-2 tends to last longer than subsequent outbreaks. Some people develop an outbreak quickly after contracting the herpes virus, while others don’t have symptoms that appear for several months or even years. Some lucky people never develop symptoms at all.
The initial episode of genital herpes also tends to be more painful than future outbreaks. Many people develop flu-like symptoms during their initial outbreak. These can include headache, fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.
The first outbreak of HSV-2 can last between two and four weeks.
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How Can I Manage The Symptoms
- Keep the area clean to avoid infection. You can use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to reduce pain and soothe your skin.
- Some people find topical anaesthetic creams such as Emla help
- Drink plenty of fluids this will dilute your urine and make passing urine less painful.
- Avoid tight clothing as it may irritate the blisters and sores further.
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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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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.
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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How Long Does The First Herpes Outbreak Last
The first outbreak of genital herpes is usually much worse than recurrent outbreaks. Symptoms tend to be more severe and to last longer. The first outbreak of genital herpes may last 24 weeks. During this time, the sores break open and release fluid. Over a period of days, the sores become crusted and then heal without leaving scars.
Your provider will prescribe one of the three antiviral medications, which you will take for 7 to 10 days. If your symptoms persist, treatment may be extended. An acyclovir ointment may also be prescribed for topical treatment of initial genital herpes.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
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Home Remedies For Genital Herpes
In addition to medication treatment, there are many natural remedies that effectively soothe herpes sores quickly. An infected individual may be able to reduce inflammation, irritation and other symptoms by implementing a mix of the following solutions.
- Hot compressThe application of a warm compress may be helpful as soon as a sore is detected. In the event of a fully-formed sore, heat may help to minimise pain and reduce itching.
- Cold compressEffective in reducing swelling, an ice pack or clean, soft washcloth filled with ice applied to the affected area can relieve discomfort, although ice should never be directly applied to herpes blisters, bumps or ulcers.
- Vaseline or petroleum jellyAlthough Vaseline can ease the pain associated with crusting sores, it should be noted that herpes thrives in moist areas, and so applications should be sporadic and only in cases of extreme sensitivity. If possible, it is recommended to let the sores dry out on their own.
- SudocreamAn antiseptic healing lotion, Sudocream helps to heal sores by forming a protective layer over the vulnerable area. Sudocream helps reduce the risk of infection and contains a mild local anaesthetic to soothe discomfort.
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
Infections are transmitted through contact with HSV in herpes lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. 5 HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be shed from normal-appearing oral or genital mucosa or skin. 7,8 Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during genital contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. However, receiving oral sex from a person with an oral HSV-1 infection can result in getting a genital HSV-1 infection. 4 Transmission commonly occurs from contact with an infected partner who does not have visible lesions and who may not know that he or she is infected. 7 In persons with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections, genital HSV shedding occurs on 10.2% of days, compared to 20.1% of days among those with symptomatic infections. 8
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How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Herpes simplex virus doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with HSV-2 should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy as prescribed, to prevent outbreaks during delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
What Are The Symptoms
If you think you might have contracted an STI , see your doctor. JustHerpes.com cannot provide diagnosis and you shouldnt attempt to diagnose yourself. You can also get tested by ordering an STD test online and then having it done confidentially near you.
Generally speaking, here is what you might expect during your first outbreak:
Symptoms during the first 24 hours
During this interval, you might remain symptom-free. However, you might experience symptoms like a strange tingling, pain, itching, and swelling of the affected area.
- A first herpes outbreak is considered to be the most severe.
- It can be accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and a tingling sensation or pain in the affected area.
Symptoms lasting hours to days
During this stage, you might have prodromal symptoms the ones that means an outbreak is coming. Those might include:
- General aches and pains
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Swelling of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small pea-sized structures that are present in your groin, axilla, and areas of the neck. During your first herpes outbreak, you might experience swelling of lymph nodes in your groin area.
Symptoms lasting days to weeks
Once youre through the initial stages of infection, you might then start to see blisters characteristic of HSV. The blisters have an inflamed and red base. They last several days, crust, and heal without leaving scars.
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