How Is A Herpes Skin Infection Spread
The herpes virus is most effectively spread from direct person to person contact with infected skin, such as by kissing. Saliva or oral secretions from an infected person can spread the virus too, even on shared beverages or utensils. That term utensils typically refers to forks and implements used for eating, but any implement placed on the mouth where salivary droplets reside and virus is shed has the potential to transmit herpes.
You need to put this in perspective, however. The herpes virus is a fragile virus.
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.
How Long After Herpes Outbreak Is It Still Contagious
For oral herpes, cold sores are usually contagious for up to 15 days and are generally no longer contagious once all symptoms have cleared, which includes the blister itself and any scabbing.
Someone carrying genital herpes should wait until 7 days after the sore heals to begin engaging in sexual activity, as the herpes virus can spread from sores not covered by a condom.
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What Can A Person Or Community Do To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes Ii
Avoidance of sexual contact with symptomatic individuals is an immediate, but only partial answer because herpes virus may be shed while the infected individual remains asymptomatic. Cesarean section is often recommended when primary or recurrent herpes II lesions occur in late pregnancy.
Sexual relations should be approached responsibly.
- Limit the number of your sex partners.
- Use a male or female condom.
- If you think you are infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit the local STD clinic, a hospital or your doctor.
Red Light Therapy Can Reduce Duration Of Outbreaks
Red light therapy is a type of treatment proven to help reduce the duration of herpes outbreaks. Clinical research has shown that treatment with red light can shorten the healing time of herpes outbreaks even more than traditional treatments.
The Luminance RED lip sore device and genital sore device are FDA-registered medical devices that use the same kind of high-powered light that achieved such results. To spend the least amount of time with your herpes sores, try one of the Luminance RED devices with its advanced red light therapy technology.
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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.
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.
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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.
What Are The Signs Of Herpes In Pregnant Women
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, there may be a risk of your baby being infected with the virus during delivery. This condition is called neonatal herpes and can be serious or fatal.
Neonatal herpes can result in damage to the central nervous system and can cause mental retardation. Only about 0.1% of babies born in the United States are infected with neonatal herpes even though about 25% to 30% of pregnant women have genital herpes.
Generally, if you are infected with herpes, your doctor will deliver your baby by cesarean section to avoid any risk to your newborn infant.
Women who have herpes before becoming pregnant are at very low risk of transmitting the herpes virus to their babies. If a woman is infected with the herpes virus after becoming pregnant, her baby faces a higher risk of contracting neonatal herpes. Women who are newly infected havent had time to develop the antibodies against the virus and cannot pass them on to the baby for protection.
Talk with your OB/GYN and let them know if you have genital herpes. At the time of your delivery, ask your doctor to examine you early in labor to make sure you dont have any sores or signs of infection like pain, tingling, or itching.
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Not Everyone Has Symptoms
Whether you are susceptible to recurrent cold sores or carry the virus but are never symptomatic, can be down to genes, reveals OMahony.
Once youve contracted the virus, your likelihood of getting symptoms is 99% inherited, he explains. Often in families the genetic predisposition is such that they will all be more susceptible. Everybodys immune system is different, one persons might be brilliant at dealing with cancer cells, but not much good with this virus its just the particular immune response you inherited.
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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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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Types Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are a number of tests used to diagnose herpes, depending on whether lesions are present.
- Symptomatic testing: Samples taken from lesions can be used to detect the virus with a viral culture or nucleic acid amplification test . Of the two, NAAT is more sensitive . A polymerase chain reaction test may be used if herpes is suspected as the cause of a systemic or central nervous system infection, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
- Asymptomatic testing: A blood test may be used to detect HSV antibodies. This is an option for people who had a previous outbreak or had recent exposure. Very recent herpes infections may not be detected. Retesting in a few months may be necessary for accurate results. Some blood tests can also specifically identify an HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection.
Due to the high rates of false-positives, screening for genital herpes in asymptomatic adults and adolescents is not recommended.
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Reactivation And Recurrent Outbreaks
- Extreme temperatures
- Menstrual periods
The virus then travels to the skin and can cause another, often milder, outbreak. However, reactivation may not cause any symptoms.
Before an outbreak, some people experience prodrome. This is characterized by tingling, itching, or pain in the affected areas before the lesions appear.
Stages Of Herpes Outbreaks
Like any other infection, every case is different. The duration of a herpes outbreak will depend on factors such as:
- Your individual immune system
- How many outbreaks youâve had in the past
- Treatment history
Keep in mind that no matter your history or treatment, thereâs help.
The stages of a herpes outbreak can last between two and 14 days and can be broken down into stages:
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How Do You Get Herpes
There are two different herpes viruses: Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 .
While rare, a mother can pass genital herpes to the baby during vaginal childbirth.
Herpes is most easily transmitted when sores are open and wet, because fluid from herpes blisters easily spreads the virus. But herpes can also shed and be passed to others when there are no sores and the skin looks totally normal. Most people get herpes from someone who does not have any sores. When used consistently and correctly, condoms help protect against herpes and many other STDs.
How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
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How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
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.
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How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
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Recurrence Course Triggers And Timing
Course of Recurrence
Most cases of herpes simplex recur. The site on the body and the type of virus influence how often it comes back. Recurrences of genital herpes are more likely with HSV-2 infection than with HSV-1 infection.
The virus usually takes the following course:
- Prodrome. The outbreak of infection is often preceded by a prodrome, an early group of symptoms that may include itchy skin, pain, or an abnormal tingling sensation at the site of infection. Headache, enlarged lymph glands, and flu-like symptoms may occur. The prodrome, which may last from 2 hours to 2 days, stops when the blisters develop. About 25% of the time, recurrence does not go beyond the prodrome stage.
- Outbreak. Recurrent outbreaks feature most of the same symptoms at the same sites as the primary attack, but they tend to be milder and briefer. After blisters erupt, they typically heal in 6 to 10 days. Occasionally, the symptoms may not resemble those of the primary episode, but appear as fissures and scrapes in the skin or as general inflammation around the affected area.
Triggers of Recurrence
Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by different factors. They include sunlight, wind, fever, physical injury, surgery, menstruation, suppression of the immune system, and emotional stress. Oral herpes can be triggered within about 3 days of intense dental work, particularly root canal or tooth extraction.
Timing of Recurrences
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Encouraging Healing Of Cold Sores
Wet or Dry?
Knowing when to keep your cold sore dry and when to keep it moist is an important part of getting rid of cold sores faster.
When you first notice a tingling or itching sensation that indicates a cold sore is on its way, try to keep the area dry. The area should remain dry until after the blister bursts and scabs over with a yellow or brown crust.
You can dry a cold sore out by pressing salt against it for about 30 seconds. You can also try applying a thin layer of white toothpaste to the sore before bed.
Once a scab forms on the sore, you can use petroleum jelly to keep the scab moist.
Supplements and Compresses
Taking lysine supplements and using a cold compress can also encourage cold sores to heal more quickly. You can try traditional natural compresses such as an ice pack, which can reduce pain and inflammation, but be sure that the ice usage doesn’t cause the sore to become wet. You can also try compresses of cornstarch paste.
One of the most important ways to combat cold sores and shorten their duration is to take action at the very first sign of an outbreak. Whether you use cold compresses, keep the area dry, or try to minimize swelling by using ice and/or ibuprofen, all of these tips will work best when used early.
Additionally, be sure to avoid touching or picking at the cold sore, which could lead to infection. It could also further injure your skin and prolong healing time.