Herpes - genital - self-care; Herpes simplex - genital - self-care; Herpesvirus 2 - self-care; HSV-2 - self-care
One type of herpes virus stays in the body by hiding within nerve cells. It can remain "asleep" (dormant) for a long time. The virus can "wake up" (reactivate) at any time. This can be triggered by:
- Genital irritation
- Physical or emotional stress
The pattern of outbreaks varies widely in people with herpes. Some people carry the virus even though they've never had symptoms. Others may have only one outbreak or outbreaks that occur rarely. Some people have regular outbreaks that occur every 1 to 4 weeks.
To ease symptoms:
- Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to relieve pain.
- Apply cool compresses to sores several times a day to relieve pain and itching.
- Women with sores on the vaginal lips (labia) can try urinating in a tub of water to avoid pain.
Doing the following may help sores heal:
- Wash sores gently with soap and water. Then pat dry.
- Do not bandage sores. Air speeds healing.
- Do not pick at sores. They can get infected, which slows healing.
- Do not use ointment or lotion on sores unless your provider prescribes it.
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Do not wear nylon or other synthetic pantyhose or underwear. Also, do not wear tight-fitting pants.
Genital herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medicine (acyclovir and related drugs) may relieve pain and discomfort and help the outbreak go away faster. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks. Follow your provider's instructions about how to take this medicine if it has been prescribed. There are two ways to take it:
- One way is to take it for about 7 to 10 days only when symptoms occur. This typically shortens the time it takes for symptoms to clear up.
- The other is to take it daily to prevent outbreaks.
Generally, there are very few if any side effects from this medicine. If they occur, side effects may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
Consider taking antiviral medicine daily to keep outbreaks from developing.
Taking steps to keep yourself healthy can also minimize the risk for future outbreaks. Things you can do include:
- Get plenty of sleep. This helps keep your immune system strong.
- Eat healthy foods. Good nutrition also helps your immune system stay strong.
- Keep stress low. Constant stress can weaken your immune system.
- Protect yourself from the sun, wind, and extreme cold and heat. Use sunscreen, especially on your lips. On windy, cold, or hot days, stay indoors or take steps to guard against the weather.
Preventing the Spread of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass (shed) the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex when you have sores on or near the genitals, anus, or mouth.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact your provider if you have any of the following:
- Symptoms of an outbreak that worsen despite medicine and self-care
- Symptoms that include severe pain and sores that do not heal
- Frequent outbreaks
- Outbreaks during pregnancy
Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, Lobo RA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 23.
Whitley RJ, Gnann JW. Herpes simplex virus infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 350.
Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. PMID: 34292926
Last reviewed on: 11/10/2022
Reviewed by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Can I treat genital herpes myself? ›
There is no cure for genital herpes, but treatment can help. Self-care can relieve symptoms and help sores heal. Medicine can shorten an outbreak and also relieve symptoms.What helps heal genital herpes faster? ›
Antiviral medicine (acyclovir and related drugs) may relieve pain and discomfort and help the outbreak go away faster. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks. Follow your provider's instructions about how to take this medicine if it has been prescribed.How do you dry out genital herpes sores? ›
- Cool compress. It may be helpful to use a cold compress to reduce swelling. ...
- Baking soda paste. Applying a baking soda paste may help dry out lesions and relieve itching. ...
- Cornstarch paste. ...
- Topical garlic.
- Topical apple cider vinegar (ACV)
Bathe the affected genital area twice a day with mild soap and water. Gently pat dry with a towel or use a hair dryer set on warm. Using Aveeno (colloidal oatmeal soap or bath treatments) may also be soothing. Take a hot bath, if you can tolerate it.Is it OK to touch genital herpes? ›
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems. If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body.What cream can I put on genital herpes? ›
Acyclovir ointment is used to treat first outbreaks of genital herpes (a herpes virus infection that causes sores to form around the genitals and rectum from time to time) and to treat certain types of sores caused by the herpes simplex virus in people with weak immune systems.What kills herpes virus in body? ›
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, daily use of antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Antiviral medicines also can reduce the chance of spreading it to others.Can Vaseline help genital herpes? ›
People often try using Vaseline, bacitracin, or Aquaphor to soothe the itchy or painful eruptions. “Honestly, not putting anything on the sores is best,” says Gade. Do keep the area clean and dry, though. Warm compresses applied to tender or painful areas can help.What triggers herpes outbreaks? ›
Repeat outbreaks are usually brought on by a trigger. Common triggers for genital herpes include stress, fatigue, illness, sex, and surgery. For some women, getting their period is a trigger. During repeat outbreaks, some people notice that they develop warning signs, which tell them where the sores will appear.Should you put anything on genital herpes? ›
Medicine. Genital herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medicine (acyclovir and related drugs) may relieve pain and discomfort and help the outbreak go away faster. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks.
Should you wash genital herpes? ›
Genital Herpes Treatment
Discuss various options with your doctor before trying any drug or herbal treatment. What can be done during an outbreak of genital herpes is to keep the area and blisters as clean and dry as possible. Shower in warm water to cleanse the area. Use a separate towel and pat the blisters dry.
To reduce the pain and itching from herpes sores: Take warm sitz baths. Keep the sores clean and dry in between baths or showers. You can let the sores air-dry.Can herpes live on a wet towel? ›
You can't get genital herpes from hugging, sharing baths or towels, from clothing, from swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.How do you keep herpes dormant? ›
How do you keep herpes dormant? Most people may never know that they are infected with a herpes virus, and often people do not have frequent outbreaks. However, people with frequent herpes outbreaks can keep the virus dormant or prevent an attack by taking suppressive antiviral medication.Are hot showers good for herpes? ›
To ease your symptoms
Take warm or cool baths to ease itching of sores. And don't share towels or other personal items when you have a sore. Women may find it helpful to urinate in a tub of warm water to prevent burning.
It's important to avoid touching herpes sores or having any sexual contact while you or your partner have a herpes outbreak. That's because herpes is most contagious when sores are open and wet. Herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact with infected areas, often during vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, and kissing.Can I finger my girlfriend if she has genital herpes? ›
It is possible to pass certain STIs like HPV, gonorrhea, and herpes through fingering. Even so, most studies suggest that the risk is low to unlikely. With that said, the risk is not zero. To be safe, you can use gloves or finger cots and wash your hands between touching yourself and touching your partner.What happens if you squeeze a genital herpes sore? ›
Don't pop genital herpes blisters. This can make the virus easier to spread and make pain worse. Pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil), can also relieve HSV-2 symptoms.Is Neosporin good for herpes? ›
Once a cold sore break open, it's more susceptible to bacterial infection, and Neosporin can help to prevent such secondary infections. Since cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and not bacteria, using Neosporin will not help the original cold sore to heal but will prevent and/or treat secondary infections.Should I put lotion on genital herpes? ›
Over-the-counter creams and/or ointments are not recommended for genital herpes, since they can interfere with the healing process in a number of ways, causing genital outbreaks to last longer. Keeping the area clean and as dry as possible and allowing the area to get air can help to speed the healing process.
What can I buy over the counter for genital herpes? ›
OTC creams are not recommended for genital herpes . However, OTC oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can relieve pain from oral or genital herpes. Prescription genital and oral herpes creams include : Acyclovir (5%) cream or ointment: topical antiviral (genital and oral)What happens if herpes goes untreated? ›
What happens if herpes is not treated? Herpes can be painful, but it generally does not cause serious health problems like other STDs can. Without treatment, you might continue to have regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.How can I live my life with herpes? ›
In everyday life, Dr. Brayer encourages the same safe practices for both oral and genital herpes: Don't share personal care items. During outbreaks, avoid infecting others. For genital herpes, forgo sex or use condoms from the first signs of an outbreak until the sores clear up.What does zinc do for herpes? ›
Applying zinc topically may help prevent outbreaks and has been shown to stop the pain, burning, and tingling of a herpes outbreak. In a test tube, zinc is capable of inactivating the type of herpes virus responsible for the majority of genital herpes cases.Why does toothpaste help with herpes? ›
According to the Wound Care Society, applying toothpaste to cold sores during their blister phase may make the area numb, dry out the blisters, and keep them from getting larger. Most toothpaste contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), an ingredient believed to hinder cold sore blisters.What should I wear during a herpes outbreak? ›
Wear white cotton underwear and loose clothing during outbreaks. Don't wear nylon underwear or tight clothes. They can prevent sores from healing.Does herpes get worse with age? ›
It might be annoying, but herpes doesn't get worse over time or cause serious health problems like other STDs can. If you don't get treated for herpes, you might keep having regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.How far away is a cure for herpes? ›
It will still take a long time before these experiments lead to the first human trials of gene therapy to cure herpes. Jerome estimates that will be at least three years away. Herpes simplex viruses afflict billions of human beings around the globe.Has anyone ever gotten rid of herpes? ›
There is currently no cure or preventive treatment for herpes infection. If a person gets either form of herpes virus infection, they will have it for life, whether or not they experience symptoms.How to love with genital herpes? ›
Talk to your doctor about using antiviral medication like valacyclovir. Taken regularly at a suppressive therapy dose, valacyclovir greatly reduces your risk of transmitting genital herpes to other people. Use condoms, dental dams and other barrier contraceptives.
Should you clean genital herpes with salt water? ›
During an episode of genital herpes
Bathing sores with salt water (2 teaspoons of salt per litre, or 1 cup of salt in a bath) can help them heal. Applying an anaesthetic jelly or cream can reduce the pain, particularly when urinating. If it hurts to urinate, you can also try urinating while sitting in a warm bath.
If you rubbed a herpes sore against a towel, for instance, some of the herpes simplex virus could be deposited onto the towel. The virus may persist outside the body for several hours, but soon it begins to lose its ability to invade and colonize new cells.Does salt water dry out herpes? ›
Witch hazel, lemon juice, salt water, tea tree oil, and vanilla extract can all act as an astringent, which helps to dry out the sore, reduce redness and irritation, and promote healing. Wear lip balm that has SPF 20 or higher in it to prevent triggering a sore.Is heat or cold better for herpes? ›
Warm compress: Using heat can help to alleviate pain and itchiness with herpes outbreaks. You can use a heating pad or another type of warm compress, but be sure to wash any materials that come into direct contact with your sores. Cold compress: Applying ice can reduce swelling and itchiness.Can herpes spread through bed sheets? ›
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels. If you have additional questions about how herpes is spread, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.Can I use the same toilet as someone with herpes? ›
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus. This virus dies quickly outside the body. So it is nearly impossible to get infected by contact with toilets or other objects used by a person with an infection.How long can herpes live on sheets? ›
SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: HSV virus survives for short periods of time outside the host 3. It can survive on dry inanimate surfaces (survival ranges from few hours to 8 weeks).Is there an odor with herpes? ›
A person experiencing herpes discharge will notice that it is different from that of a normal discharge. It has a strong, foul, and pungent odor in both men and women, generally described as “fishy”.Does herpes take time off your life? ›
Genital herpes is essentially a minor, sometimes recurring, skin infection; 'cold sores' which occur on the genitals rather than the face. It does not cause long-term ill health or affect longevity of life. People who get genital herpes can and do lead perfectly normal lives.What not to drink when you have herpes? ›
Some people with herpes have found that avoiding foods high in the amino acid Arginine, may reduce recurrences. Higher levels of Arginine are found in foods such as chocolate and many types of nuts. Excessive coffee (caffeine), red wine and smoking are also triggers for some people.
How long does genital herpes take to heal? ›
A few hours later, sores may appear. In recurrent outbreaks, there usually is no fever or swelling in the genital area. Sores heal more quickly—within 3–7 days in most cases. Also, recurrent outbreaks usually are less painful.How long does it take herpes blisters to pop? ›
It generally takes anywhere from 4 to 7 days for herpes symptoms to appear. Both genital and oral herpes outbreaks have similar symptoms. The primary symptom of a herpes outbreak is sores that resemble blisters, called herpes lesions, on the mouth or genitals.What is the longest a herpes outbreak can last? ›
Over time, reappearances occur less often. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and lasts the longest, sometimes 2 to 4 weeks. During an outbreak, you might notice tingling or sores (lesions) near the area where HSV first entered your body.How I stopped my herpes outbreaks? ›
- Talk to Your Doctor About Antiviral Medications. ...
- Know Your Triggers. ...
- Recognize the Early Symptoms. ...
- Practice Daily Stress Management. ...
- Take Care of Your Body. ...
- Use Lubricants During Intercourse.
It does not cause long-term ill health or affect longevity of life. People who get genital herpes can and do lead perfectly normal lives. A primary infection can be severe and involve generalised 'flu'-like symptoms.How do I know my herpes is healing? ›
The blisters open and become sores. The sores turn crusty and heal slowly over 1 to 2 weeks. By 3 weeks, the sores have completely healed without leaving a scar. Sometimes flu-like symptoms, such as swollen glands, headache, body aches and fever also develop.Should I squeeze a herpes sore? ›
“In today's world of obsession with pimple popping and more, it may be very tempting to pop a cold sore, but do not do it,” said Dr. Omar Ibrahimi, a Harvard trained, board-certified dermatologist. “Doing so can lead to scarring, as well as spreading of the cold sores on yourself and others.”Can you tell how long you've had herpes? ›
Unfortunately, most people who are diagnosed will not be able to determine how long they have had the infection. In addition, IgM tests cannot accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, and thus very easily provide a false positive result for HSV-2.Is Neosporin OK for herpes? ›
Once a cold sore break open, it's more susceptible to bacterial infection, and Neosporin can help to prevent such secondary infections. Since cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and not bacteria, using Neosporin will not help the original cold sore to heal but will prevent and/or treat secondary infections.Does vitamin C deactivate herpes? ›
In addition to demonstrating activity against influenza and herpes virus, vitamin C has been reported to have activity against a number of other viruses including poliovirus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, human lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), parvovirus and rabies virus among ...
Does vitamin D help against herpes? ›
Regarding the effects of vitamin D-associated AMPs on herpesviruses, a cell study indicated that cathelicidin decreased HSV-1 viral titres isolated from patients with keratoconjunctivitis12; furthermore, another cell study also showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced HSV-1 viral load and mRNA expression in HSV-1- ...Will peroxide dry up herpes? ›
You can even choose to rub hydrogen peroxide and alcohol, which may help dry out the sore. By applying any of the two products you can speed up the healing process. However, you should stop using it immediately if it causes more irritation or pain.Should you keep herpes sores dry or moist? ›
To reduce the pain and itching from herpes sores: Take warm sitz baths. Keep the sores clean and dry in between baths or showers. You can let the sores air-dry.Does herpes weaken over time? ›
Outbreaks become less intense and less frequent over time. Most people have an outbreak of genital herpes more than once in their life. The frequency of these outbreaks varies from individual to individual.