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Preventing The Spread Of Genital Herpes

Posting Date: 03/28/2005

Q. I am in my fifties, and have herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2). I am interested in having a sexual relationship with a new partner. I don?t want to transmit the herpes virus to him. If my partner wears a condom and I?m on suppressive therapy (Famvir), how safe will it be? I hope you will answer this question for many in my predicament.

A. Antiviral medications like Famvir and Valtrex diminish herpes outbreaks and decrease viral shedding by 85 percent to 95 percent. As a result, the chance of transmitting the herpes virus is reduced but not eliminated.

Regular use of a condom can further lessen the likelihood of passing the virus to your partner. Even this combination, however, is not perfect.

Q. I'm responding to the issue of using Vicks VapoRub or Mentholatum to keep the inside of the nose lubricated. I'm a flight attendant who flies long international flights (often 10 hours or more). Given the lack of humidity on the airplane, my nose was often uncomfortably dry, sometimes bleeding slightly.

An Ear, Nose and Throat specialist recommended a product designed to be used inside the nose, without the petrolatum base of Vicks or Mentholatum. I have found two: "Nose Better" and "Ayr Gel."

These are not saline spray products (which seem to work well, but evaporate quickly), but gel that stays inside the nose and helps maintain appropriate moisture. They are both over-the-counter products, but often not regularly stocked. I've had good luck at many pharmacies just asking them to order the product for me. It makes a huge difference in my poor nose's ability to tolerate the dryness of the airplane.

A. Thank you for this practical suggestion. We found both products online. Directions say they may be used in the nostrils to relieve discomfort. Neither Vicks VapoRub nor Mentholatum should be used inside the nose.