Living with Herpes

To speed healing, take care of open herpes sores. To reduce outbreaks, take care of your health. And to keep from infecting others, learn how to avoid spreading the virus.


To ease symptoms

  • Start episodic treatment at the first sign of symptoms, such as itching or tingling.

  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to limit any pain.

  • Sit in a warm or cool bath or use a moist compress to lessen the itching of sores. For some women, genital outbreaks cause burning during urination. In such cases, urinating in a tub of warm water helps reduce burning.

  • Wear white cotton underwear and loose clothing during outbreaks. Don’t wear nylon underwear or tight clothes. They can prevent sores from healing.


To speed healing

  • Wash sores with mild soap and water. Pat the sores completely dry.

  • Always wash your hands after touching a sore.

  • Don’t bandage sores. Air helps them heal.

  • Avoid using any ointment unless it is prescribed. Applying the wrong jelly or cream may hold in moisture and slow healing.

  • Don’t pick at the sores. This can slow healing, and might cause a sore to become infected.

  • If you wear contacts, wash your hands well before putting them in.


To reduce outbreaks

  • Eat a balanced diet. Your health care provider may suggest taking supplements. These help ensure that you get all the nutrients you need.

  • Get plenty of sleep. This helps your immune system work its best.

  • Limit stress and tension. Both can weaken the body’s defenses.

  • Limit exposure to sun, wind, and extreme heat or cold. Wear sunscreen and lip balm to help prevent outbreaks.


To protect others

  • Tell your current sex partner and any future partners that you have herpes. If you don’t know what to say, ask your health care provider for help.

  • Use a latex condom that covers the affected areas each time you have sex. This reduces the risk of passing herpes to your partner.

  • Avoid kissing when you have an oral sore.

  • Do not have intercourse when genital sores are present. Also keep in mind, herpes can be passed during oral sex and with anal contact.

  • Don’t share towels, toothbrushes, lip balm, or lipstick when you have a sore.

  • Some evidence supports taking daily antiviral medications to help reduce the likelihood of transmission to your partner.


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