Herpes Myths To Stop Freaking Out About
A surprising number of people you know probably have herpes.
Shocked? You shouldnt be, since the virus is very common. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 thats 67 percent of the global population in that age bracket. Another 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 .
Many people consider HSV-1 more benign, but it turns out theres not much difference between the two types of virus. While its true that HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause genital sores or blisters, type 1 can do the same thing.
One big misconception is that cold sores are caused by HSV-1 and genital herpes are always type 2, but thats not always the case, says Sarah Vensel, a physician assistant in San Francisco. Cold sores are so common theyve been normalized at this point. But genital herpes is sometimes the exact same virus just in a different location.
Not only is herpes incredibly common its also totally manageable. Allow us to set your mind at ease and debunk three widespread herpes myths:
Can Drinking Or Lack Of Sleep Make You Get A Cold Sore
If you drink a lot of alcohol, it can actually suppress your immune system, which we just learned is one of the things that can trigger a herpes outbreak. So it is possible for you to experience an outbreak after drinking heavily. One drink probably wonât do it though, so if you notice that you start to feel an outbreak coming on after just a drink or two, thereâs probably something else going on. However, an alcohol allergy probably isnât the culprit. If youâre allergic to alcohol, the symptoms can include a flushed face, hives, a runny or stuffy nose, nausea or throwing up, low blood pressure, or diarrhea.
Lack of sleep can also trigger a herpes outbreak. Fatigue is one of the main culprits for herpes blisters, and often goes hand in hand with stress. You can start feeling the onset of an outbreak just hours after a bad night of sleep, because sleep supports your immune system. If you donât get enough of it, your body is more likely to be felled by a virus , and fatigue can also make it harder for your body to recover quickly. So take care of yourself!
Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
Don’t Miss: What Kills Herpes Virus On Skin
Herpes Pregnancy And Newborn Infants
Herpes can pose serious risks for a pregnant woman and her baby. The risk is greatest for mothers with a first-time infection because the virus can be transmitted to the infant during childbirth. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using specific diagnostic tests for women in labor to determine the risk of transmission. Babies born to mothers infected with genital herpes are often treated with the antiviral drug acyclovir, which can help suppress the virus.
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.
Read Also: When To Test For Herpes
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Most herpes simplex virus infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory for viral culture, which takes a few days to grow. Blood tests may also be performed.Untreated herpes simplex virus infections will go away on their own, but medications can reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of outbreaks. There is no cure for herpes simplex virus infection.Treatment for primary herpes simplex virus infection includes the following oral antiviral medications:
- Acyclovir pills
- Oral antibiotic pills if the areas are also infected with bacteria
- Oral antifungal pills if the areas are also infected with yeast
- Topical anesthetic cream, such as lidocaine ointment, to reduce pain
- Acyclovir pills
- Valacyclovir pills
- Famciclovir pills
Why Are Cold Sores Contagious
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus . This common and highly contagious infection affects over 67 percent of the world’s population under the age of 50, according to the World Health Organization . Though most infections are asymptomatic, they can cause painful blisters or ulcers at the infection site.
Though HSV-1 is mainly transmitted through oral-to-oral contact by sores, saliva, and surfaces around the mouth, the virus can be indirectly spread by sharing utensils, lip balm, clothing, and other surfaces that come in contact with the virus. You can also spread the virus by touching your cold sore and then touching broken skin, eyes, or the genital areas.
Read Also: What Antiviral Medication Is Used For Herpes
What Are The Other Symptoms Of A Herpes Outbreak
If you are experiencing the first outbreak of herpes, you are most likely to experience signs and symptoms that may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- People who experience a herpes outbreak for the first time may develop the lesions 4 to 20 days after getting exposed to the virus.
After the initial infection, the herpes virus stays inactive in the nerves. It has a tendency to get reactivated and emerge as a new sore in certain situations. It is the reactivation that leads to the recurring outbreaks of herpes. Thankfully, consequent outbreaks after the first infection are usually associated with symptoms that are milder even blisters heal faster than before.
Outbreaks may be triggered by different things – stress, other illness, fatigue, hormone changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, or anything affecting your immune system, though anything can trigger an outbreak, and sometimes you may not know the trigger.
If you touch sores present in your mouth or genitals and then touch other places in the body, you can transmit the infection to those places one such example is herpes infection in the eyes. Children have a greater tendency to spread the virus from oral sores to their fingertips when they suck their thumbs. Once you have an established infection, and your body has produced antibodies, the chances of this happening are very low.
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.
Don’t Miss: How Do You Keep Herpes From Spreading
How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
You May Like: How Bad Is Having Herpes
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.
When Is Herpes Most Contagious
Lets start by talking about when herpes is contagious. It might sound obvious, but the first fact to know is this: Herpes is most contagious during an outbreak. That goes for genital herpes and cold sores from oral herpes.
Positive Singles is a safe, supportive community to meet others with HSV! Dating profiles, blogs, support groups, and active discussion. Avoid the awkward herpes talk sign up free now.
For genital herpes, you should stop having sex at the first sign of any impending outbreak. According to the World Health Organization, an outbreak may be preceded by mild tingling or shooting pain in the hips, legs, and buttocks .
If your doctor has prescribed you medication, this is the best time to take it to stop the outbreak in its tracks. The CDCs 2015 sexually transmitted disease guidelines state that while Valtrex may be used to treat HSV-2, Acyclovir or Famciclovir can also be used .
You should generally wait until after a herpes outbreak heals and resolves to resume having sex. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, sexual contact should be avoided until the sores dry and the scabs fall off, which takes approximately 10-14 days .
While condoms can help reduce the risk of spreading herpes, they are not completely safe. Any affected areas not covered by the condom may still provide a way for herpes to spread through skin-to-skin contact . Even after a herpes outbreak heals, the risk of transmission may still be present due to viral shedding.
Don’t Miss: Will My Herpes Outbreaks Ever Stop
Blisters Inside The Urethra
The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the genitals. In both men and women with herpes type-2, painful sores can form on the inner lining of this tube. When urinating, a person may feel a burning or razor blade sensation when urine passes over these sores. Unlike genital or mouth sores, the doctor may need to conduct tests to confirm a herpes infection when the urethra is affected.
Herpes Encephalitis And Meningitis
Herpes simplex encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2. It is a rare but extremely serious brain disease. Untreated, herpes encephalitis is fatal most of the time. Respiratory arrest can occur within the first 24 to 72 hours. Fortunately, rapid diagnostic tests and treatment with acyclovir have significantly improved survival rates and reduced complication rates. Nearly all who recover have some impairment, ranging from very mild neurological changes to paralysis.
Herpes simplex meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. It is mainly caused by HSV-2. Like encephalitis, meningitis symptoms include headache, fever, stiff neck, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Fortunately, herpes meningitis usually resolves after about a week without complications, although symptoms can recur.
Read Also: Why Herpes Virus Cannot Be Cured
If Someone With Herpes Has No Sores Can It Still Be Passed On
If someone has herpes but no sores, can it still be passed on to another person? Spence*
Yes. Even when no sores are present, the herpes is still active in the body and can spread to others.
If you or your partner has herpes, reduce the risk of spread by:
- using a condom every time you have sex . The herpes virus can live outside of the area that a condom covers, though, so a condom may not always prevent the spread.
- avoiding sex during outbreaks
- making sure the infected person takes antiviral medicine every day as prescribed by the health care provider
- *Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
Is A Cold Sore Contagious
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus , which is easily passed to other parts of your body as well as from person to person. Its extremely common, with 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 infected by HSV-1 globally, the type that causes most cold sore cases.i However, cold sores can also be caused by HSV-2, which is mainly responsible for genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection.
You May Like: Can You Get Herpes All Over Your Body
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
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with herpes genitalis should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy 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.
Recommended Reading: Can Herpes Virus Cause Cancer
How Do You Prevent Genital Herpes
People with genital herpes outbreaks are highly contagious. Anyone with active disease should avoid any sexual contact when sores are present. Even the use of a condom does not prevent the spread of disease because not all sores are covered by the condom.
Although the chance of spreading disease is greatest when sores are present, people who have had genital herpes may always be contagious to some degree, even if they have received medical treatment. The virus can become active and be transmitted to a sexual partner even when the skin appears completely normal. For this reason, safe sex practices should be used between disease outbreaks to lessen the chance of spreading the disease to a sexual partner. There is no vaccine available to prevent genital herpes infection.
Tips For Managing Herpes Symptoms
The symptoms of herpes can be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few things you can easily do at home to help ease these symptoms, including:
- Apply an ice pack or warm compress to the affected area.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.
- Keep the affected area clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection.
- Avoid tight clothing that may irritate genital sores.
- Dont pop blisters or pick at scabs that form over the sores.
- Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a painkilling cream.
Taking proper care of your skin and overall health while experiencing an outbreak can help to prevent complications like infection and assist in faster healing for your sores. Keep in mind that you are especially contagious during an outbreak, so its best to avoid intimate contact, such as kissing or sex, until the sores heal.
What Can You Take To Make The Sores Go Away Or Prevent Them In The First Place
If youâre living with oral herpes and you get symptoms , youâll start to recognize the tingly feeling you get before an outbreak. When that happens, there are lots of things you can take to shorten the length of an outbreak. This includes over-the-counter medicine, alternative medicine options, certain foods, and prescription suppression medications like Valtrex and Acyclovir.