Managing Genital Herpes

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Genital herpes is a lifelong, viral infection. During an outbreak of herpes, you might notice small red bumps in your genital area. These bumps, or blisters, can fill with fluid. When the blisters open, they become sores, or ulcers on the skin. Outbreaks can be itchy and painful.

    There is no cure for the herpes virus, however, outbreaks do occur less often and become less severe  in time. The first outbreak is usually the worse. Even so, it is important to manage your herpes symptoms. There are steps you can take to help reduce symptoms and prevent further outbreaks.


    There are antiviral medications that can be prescribed to reduce the pain and accompanying headache and muscle aches. These medications also speed up the time for the sores to heal. Some of the commonly prescribed antiviral medications are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex).

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    Some people take these medications only during outbreaks. Other people take the medication on a daily basis, as a way to try to prevent further outbreaks or reduce the healing time during outbreaks. When you take the medication on an as-needed basis, the dosage is normally higher than the daily dose but you only take it for a few days. You should talk with your doctor about both options to determine what is best for you.

    Besides antiviral medications, you might also need over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, for a fever and other flu-like symptoms.

    At-Home Treatment

    Besides medication, there are some ways you can reduce the symptoms of herpes and help prevent further outbreaks.

    Take warm baths with Epsom salts. This helps relieve pain and itching. Make sure you pat the area dry after your bath (do not rub). If you prefer, you can set a hairdryer on low and use that to dry the genital area.

    During an outbreak, wear loose-fitting clothes so you do not rub or aggravate the sores. Wear cotton underwear.

    Stress and Herpes

    Stress has been found to be a major factor in causing outbreaks. Learning to manage stress is an important part of living with herpes. If you live a hectic, stressful life, it might be time to make some lifestyle changes. Make sure you eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise every day. These have been found to reduce stress levels.

    Other Triggers


    Besides stress, there are some other factors that can trigger an outbreak:

    • Sunlight
    • Catching a cold
    • Hormonal changes
    • Weakened immune systems
    • Friction during sex

    It is important to remember that all of these may not trigger your herpes, but understanding your triggers can help you take precautions to lessen the chance of an outbreak, for example, if you find having sex causes pain or an outbreak, consider using a water based lubricant. Keep track of your triggers and talk with your doctor about ways you can lessen the outbreaks.

    Herpes and Your Sex Life

    Receiving a diagnosis of herpes doesn’t mean you have to give up sex, but it might mean some precautions and changes. If you are not having an outbreak, it is okay to have sex, however, you can still spread herpes to your partner. It is important that you let your partner know the risks and always use a condom.

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    When having an outbreak, it is best to abstain from sexual intercourse, anal sex and oral sex, although if you don’t have sores on your mouth, you can perform oral sex on your partner. You and your partner can take this time to explore non-intercourse ways of being sexual and intimate, for example, side-by-side masturbation or vibrators (make sure you wash thoroughly after and do not share). Decide what feels best to you


    “The Diagnosis and Management of Genital Herpes: The Silent Epidemic,” Date Unknown, Gary A. Richwald, Medscape

    “Genital Herpes Treatment,” 2011, Nov 28, Monika Gold,

Published On: August 18, 2014