Herpes (HSV1 or HSV2) is one of the most common STIs, but most people never get symptoms so they don’t know they have it. Avoiding sex when you feel a cold sore or blister coming up on either the mouth or genitals and using condoms and dams is your best protection.
Are there any symptoms?
Most people with herpes don’t get symptoms, or get such mild symptoms, that they’re never diagnosed
Those who do get symptoms may notice tingling, itching or pain on the skin followed by blisters that break and then scab over
The first episode tends to be the worst and may include flu-like symptoms as well as painful sores, which can take a few days or weeks to heal
There is no cure for herpes and symptoms can reoccur, but antiviral medication can prevent or decrease symptoms
What is Herpes?
Herpes is an STI caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV: HSV1 and HSV2. When Herpes appears on the mouth or lips, it’s known as cold sores, while on the vagina, penis, or bum areas it’s called Genital Herpes. HSV1 is usually the cause of oral herpes, but also causes about half of genital herpes. HSV2 is rarely found on the mouth, but causes about half of genital herpes. One person can get both HSV1 and HSV2, but it’s unlikely to have the same type in multiple places. Where you get it the first time is where it stays.
How do you catch Herpes?
You can get Herpes through skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal or anal sex. You can also catch it through non-penetrative genital to genital rubbing, rimming, as well as kissing. Herpes is most contagious when you have symptoms, but can sometimes be passed on even when there are no symptoms at all. One of the best ways to lower the risk of Herpes is by using a condom or dental dam.
How can I prevent Herpes?
The best way to decrease your risk of getting or passing on genital herpes is to avoid genital or oral contact while symptoms are present and use condoms or dental dams for oral, vaginal, or anal sex
If you have Herpes, taking antiviral medication every day can decrease the chance of you passing the virus on to someone else.
Testing and treatment for Herpes
If you have symptoms, a doctor can test for Herpes by taking a swab from the ulcer or blister. There’s no cure, but there are antiviral medications that can help reduce symptoms if there’s any pain or discomfort.
Most people have some type of Herpes but simply don’t know it
People who regularly have uncomfortable symptoms may choose to take these medications every day which will reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts as well as reduce the risk of passing it on to other people. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can help with any pain and saltwater baths will dry sores and promote healing. Wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing can also be helpful.
If you’re pregnant and have been diagnosed with genital Herpes or think you might be having symptoms for the first time, make sure you tell your doctor so they can help prevent any exposure to the baby.
Do you need to talk to someone about Herpes?
The stigma associated with Herpes is often more distressing than any physical symptoms. It’s important to remember that most people have some kind herpes and about one in eight people have Genital Herpes. If you’re diagnosed with Herpes, you’re not alone. Talk to your doctor or Nurse Nettie if you need help. We also have a supportive forum where you can share or hear from people with similar experiences.