St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
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
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Genital herpes - self-care

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

    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.


    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.


    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


    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.


          A Closer Look

          Self Care

          Tests for Genital herpes - self-care

            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. 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.

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

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

            Brain & Spine
            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
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            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  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile