Can Cold Sores Be Serious
In most cases, cold sores are just unsightly and painful but clear up within 15 days. However, cold sores can be serious when they affect:vii
- Your eyes If the infection reaches the inner layers of your cornea the transparent layer at the front of your eye and remains untreated, it can be sight-threatening.
- Babies Because their immune systems havent yet developed properly, babies cant fight the virus easily and if the infection spreads to their vital organs, it can be fatal.
- People with weakened immunity As with babies, the infection may spread to vital organs. People at risk include those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or anyone with a condition affecting their immunity such as diabetes or HIV.
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How Can You Stop Cold Sores From Spreading
Follow a few simple steps to help stop cold sores from spreading.
1. Dont Touch
Touching is how cold sores are spread. The only time you should touch a cold sore is when youre applying cream. The less you touch it, the less likely it is that youll spread it elsewhere around your body or to someone else. This applies from the first tingle to when its totally disappeared. If youre applying make-up around the area, use a disposable applicator such as a cotton swab rather than your fingers.
2. Wash Your Hands
You should do this after touching your cold sore and before touching your eyes, contact lenses, genitals or any area of broken skin.
3. Dont Kiss
This means any sort of kiss, even on the cheek. Its important to be extra careful around babies, children, pregnant women or people with lowered immunity. Most people get HSV-1 as a child through an affectionate kiss from an infected adult.
4. Avoid Oral Sex
Abstain from engaging in oral sex when you have symptoms of a cold sore, as you can pass on the HSV-1 virus, giving your partner an infection in their genital area.
5. Dont Share Personal Items
This covers food, eating utensils, straws, cups, glasses, lipsticks, lip balm, cold sore cream and anything else that has come into contact with your saliva or cold sore.
6. Change Your Toothbrush
The virus can lurk in the bristles of your toothbrush so treat yourself to a new one after the blister has formed and again after the attack has cleared up.
7. Avoid Your Triggers
Myth #: Your Sex Life Is Over
While theres no cure, herpes treatment is simple and can shorten or prevent outbreaks, so you can still have a love life.
People have a disproportionate fear of herpes in relation to any other STI, Grimes says. They feel like their sex lives are ruined forever and thats in no way the case.
If you have the virus, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Zovirax or Valtrex to keep on hand in case of a flare-up. And if you experience outbreaks often, your provider may recommend daily dosing. However you treat it, its worth remembering that herpes is a condition to manage it doesnt define you.
If you have to be perfect for your new partner, that partner will be looking a very, very long time to find a match! Grimes says. Everyone has something, and since one in six Americans between 14-49 have HSV-2, odds are very high that your next partner is in the same boat. The main issue is to have productive conversations around these issues.
So theres no reason for all the stigma and secrecy surrounding herpes, since its safe to assume more people have it than you think. And if youre diagnosed with the virus, your provider will help you find a treatment plan thats easy, effective, and fit for your lifestyle.
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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.
Concerned About Catching Herpes
Herpes is extremely common, making it completely normal to have some level of concern about being exposed to the virus. The reality is that many people have some form of herpes, whether its the more common HSV-1 form of the virus or the less common HSV-2 form.
Are you interested in learning more about how herpes spreads from person to person, as well as what you can do to minimize your risks? Our guide to herpes types covers the process in more detail, with specific tips on how to reduce your herpes exposure risk. Looking for herpes treatment? We have you covered there, too.
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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Genital Herpes: How Can You Prevent The Spread Of Herpes In Sexual Relationships
Herpes viruses are most likely to be transmitted during an outbreak, so it’s better to not have sex during this time. Herpes can also be passed on to others in symptom-free phases, though. This risk can be reduced considerably by using condoms.
If you have genital herpes, there are some things you can do on your own to protect your partner from infection. The main things are
- not having sex during an outbreak,
- using condoms during symptom-free phases, and
- talking openly with your partner about the disease.
Preventive treatment with antiviral medication may be an option for people who have genital herpes very frequently. This medication inhibits the activity of the virus, thereby lowering the risk of infecting partners.
Talking To Your Partner
Talking to your partner about your herpes condition helps to develop trust, improves the relationship, and makes regular use of condoms more likely.
When you talk to your partner, youâll find out if theyâre one of the people who understand the risk of getting herpes and are OK with it or if theyâre in the group of people who want the most protection possible.
You should ask your partner to get tested for herpes. Most people have never been tested for herpes because this isnât a routinely ordered test even if a âfull STD panelâ is requested.
A type-specific herpes test is necessary. If your partner is positive for the same virus type, you wonât need to use protection.
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How To Prevent Herpes Infection Spread
Since there is no specific cure for Herpes Infection, it is better to prevent contracting the virus or prevent the spread of the infection to another person if you get it.
The steps to follow to prevent the spread of herpes infection-
- People who are diagnosed with herpes infection must avoid any physical contact with other people.
- Do Not share objects like utensils, toothbrushes, towels, clothes, cosmetics, lip balm, etc as these items can easily carry and pass the herpes virus from infected to a healthy person.
- One must avoid any form of sexual activity with the partner if diagnosed with or have symptoms of herpes infections, till the doctor advises.
- Patients undergoing the treatment must follow proper hygiene guidelines, must wash hands regularly, apply any ointments or medicines to the sores using clean cotton swabs only.
- Pregnant women diagnosed with herpes infection can prevent spreading the infection to the unborn child by strictly taking the prescribed medications.
The steps to follow to prevent getting herpes infections-
- Get regular tests done for any Sexually Transmitted Diseases .
- HPV vaccines can be taken to prevent getting certain strains of the herpes virus that can cause cancer.
- Follow safe sexual practices- using condoms, using dental dams or condoms for oral sex, alert the sexual partner if you develop any symptoms of the herpes infection, etc.
- Follow good hygiene practices
If I Already Have Herpes How Can I Keep From Giving It To Someone Else
You can do several things to keep from spreading genital herpes:
Consider sexual abstinence .
Don’t have any kind of sex when you have herpes sores, itching or scabs. And remember that you can spread genital herpes even when you have no sign of a sore.
Always use condoms when you have sex.
Always wash your hands right after touching your genital area, even if you have no sores.
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How Can You Contract Cold Sores
Cold sores are generally contracted from skin to skin contact with an infected area. For example, if someone has a cold sore on their lip they can pass on the virus to another persons mouth through kissing. HSV-1 is often the most easily acquired herpes infection. Usually the first herpes simplex virus that people encounter, oral HSV-1, is typically spread simply by the kind of social kiss that a relative gives a child. Because children have no prior infection with any HSV type, they have no immune defense against the virus.
How Common Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimated that there were 572,000 new genital herpes infections in the United States in a single year.1 Nationwide, 11.9 % of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection .2 However, the prevalence of genital herpes infection is higher than that because an increasing number of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. 3 Oral HSV-1 infection is typically acquired in childhood because the prevalence of oral HSV-1 infection has declined in recent decades, people may have become more susceptible to contracting a genital herpes infection from HSV-1. 4
HSV-2 infection is more common among women than among men the percentages of those infected during 2015-2016 were 15.9% versus 8.2% respectively, among 14 to 49 year olds. 2 This is possibly because genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men during penile-vaginal sex. 5 HSV-2 infection is more common among non-Hispanic blacks than among non-Hispanic whites . 2 A previous analysis found that these disparities, exist even among persons with similar numbers of lifetime sexual partners. Most infected persons may be unaware of their infection in the United States, an estimated 87.4% of 14 to 49 year olds infected with HSV-2 have never received a clinical diagnosis. 6
The age-adjusted percentage of persons in the United States infected with HSV-2 decreased from 18.0% in 19992000 to 12.1% in 2015-2016. 2
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What Is The Treatment
Antiviral medication can be prescribed when herpes first develops, or if the blisters are painful or happen often. The antiviral treatments will not cure herpes, but can help to reduce discomfort and how long it takes for a sore to heal.The medication works best if it is started as soon as possible. It can also decrease the chance of spreading it to others by preventing the virus from multiplying.
To ease discomfort when you have symptoms, try the following:
- Take acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to help with the pain
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear
- Soak in warm water baths
- Keep the infected area dry, e.g., use a blow dryer on a cool setting after bathing instead of rubbing the area with a towel
- Apply an ice-pack, wrapped in a clean cloth, to sores
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep urine diluted . If urinating hurts, pour warm water over your genitals while urinating or pee when you are in a warm shower or bath
- Do not use medicated or non-medicated ointments or creams, unless they are prescribed by your health care provider
- Avoid breaking blisters and any sexual contact until symptoms have resolved
What Does Genital Herpes Look Like
While some people with genital herpes will never have any symptoms, other people can develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected.
Often, before the lesions appear, patients describe a prodrome, characterized by a tingling or burning sensation in the area where the lesions will develop that can be noticed during urination, along with itching or discomfort in the genital area.
You can also have the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the mouth or lips
- Fever, headache or pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
The symptoms of genital herpes often go away and come back as recurring outbreaks. For most people, the first outbreak is the worst, and can last from two to three weeks. Future flare-ups are often less severe and do not last as long. Still, some people shed the virus regularly. The following triggers can make outbreaks more likely to occur:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.
In many cases, anti-herpes medicine can help patients. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects a recurrence is going to happen, they begin taking anti-herpes medications that lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the outbreak.
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You Can Get Herpes From Oral Sex
When someone has a cold sore on their mouth or simply an oral infection with no sores present, and is the giver of oral sex to someone else, the virus can be spread from the mouth to the genitals. The receiver of the oral sex might then get genital herpes type 1. The virus type doesn’t change ,but the cold sore virus will simply live, and possibly recur, in the area of the genitals.
Condoms Reduce Women’s Risk Of Herpes Infection But Do Not Protect Men
Using condoms during sexual intercourse significantly decreases the likelihood that men infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 will transmit the infection to their female partners, according to the first study to examine the effectiveness of condoms in preventing this infection.1Women are almost six times as likely as men to acquire HSV-2. Increased frequency of sexual intercourse, younger age and having a partner who is infected with both herpes simplex virus type 1 and HSV-2 increase the likelihood of acquiring HSV-2. Although using condoms more than 25% of the time offers women a high degree of protection against acquiring HSV-2, men do not receive the same benefits.
Overall, 528 couples were included in the study. Of the susceptible partners, 267 were women and 261 were men, with a median age of 36 years. Ninety-two percent were white, and 98% were in a heterosexual relationship. Participants’ median frequency of intercourse was twice weekly half said that they had used condoms no more than 10% of the time since becoming sexually active. Of the source partners, 62% were seropositive for only HSV-2, while 38% were seropositive for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
During the study’s observation period, 31 of the 528 susceptible partners acquired HSV-2: 26 of the women and five of the men. Women acquired the virus at a rate of 8.9 per 10,000 sex acts–almost six times the rate of men .
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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
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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.
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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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