Genital herpes - self-care
St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

Genital herpes - self-care

Alternate Names

Herpes - genital -self-care; Herpes simplex - genital - self-care; Herpesvirus 2 - self-care; HSV-2 - self-care

Introduction

You are likely worried after finding out that you have genital herpes. But know that you are not alone. Millions of people carry the virus. Although there is no cure, genital herpes can be treated. Follow your health care provider’s instructions for treatment and follow-up.

Future Outbreaks

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Genital irritation
  • Menstruation
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Injury 

A second outbreak can appear weeks or months after your first outbreak. It is usually less severe and goes away sooner than the first. Over time, the number of outbreaks may decrease.

Self-care

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 can 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 health care 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.

Medication

Genital herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medication may relieve pain and discomfort. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks. If you are prescribed medication, follow your health care provider’s instructions about how to take it.

Possible side effects from herpes medication include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Tremor

Reducing Outbreaks

Take care of your health to lessen future outbreaks:

  • 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 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 him or her to decide what to do. If you both agree to have sex, use latex or polyurethane condoms.
  • 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.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have any of the following: 

  • Side effects from medication (see Medications above)
  • Symptoms of an outbreak worsen in spite of medication and self-care. Symptoms include severe pain and sores that do not heal.
  • Frequent outbreaks

References

Workowski KA, Berman S; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Dec17;59(RR-12):1-110.

Lentz GM, Eckert LO. Infections of the lower genital tracts: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23. 


Review Date: 11/16/2012
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 


Back  |  Top
About Us
Contact Us
History
Mission
Locations & Directions
Quality Reports
Annual Reports
Honors & Awards
Community Health Needs
Assessment

Newsroom
Services
Brain & Spine
Cancer
Heart
Maternity
Orthopedics
Pulmonary
Sleep Medicine
Urgent Care
Women's Services
All Services
Patients & Visitors
Locations & Directions
Find a Physician
Tour St. Luke's
Patient & Visitor Information
Contact Us
Payment Options
Financial Assistance
Send a Card
Mammogram Appointments
Health Tools
My Personal Health
mystlukes
Spirit of Women
Health Information & Tools
Clinical Trials
Health Risk Assessments
Employer Programs -
Passport to Wellness

Classes & Events
Classes & Events
Spirit of Women
Donate & Volunteer
Giving Opportunities
Volunteer
Physicians & Employees
For Physicians
Remote Access
Medical Residency Information
Pharmacy Residency Information
Physician CPOE Training
Careers
Careers
St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile