Herpes Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How common is herpes?
A: Most Americans have herpes, either as genital herpes, or as cold sores, the main difference is site of preference and social acceptance. Experts estimate that 60 million Americans have the virus that causes the genital form of herpes. In a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The American Social Health Association, there are more than 15 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. That’s 41,095 people, newly infected, every day!
Up to 80 percent of Americans have the most common form of herpes (HSV-1) at some time. It usually appears as oral herpes and is most often spread without sexual contact.
Q: What are the symptoms of Oral Herpes?
A: “Cold sores” or “fever blisters” usually show up on the lips or inside the mouth. They are common in young children. Brief, direct contact is all that’s needed to pass the virus. Cold sores are annoying but harmless in children and adults. But cold sores are very harmful to a newborn. Oral herpes in adults is usually a “flare-up” of a childhood infection.
Q: What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?
A: Very often there are none. The most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores — usually but not always on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks, or anus. Symptoms may last several weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years.
The first episode of symptoms of a genital herpes infection is called “primary herpes.”
Symptoms may include:
- open sores
- pain in the infected area
- burning feelings if urine flows over sores
- inability to urinate if severe swelling of sores blocks the urethra
Very severe first episodes may have symptoms that include:
- swollen, tender lymph glands in the groin, throat, and under the arms
- general run-down feelings
- achy, flu-like feelings
The symptoms of later episodes are usually less severe than the first.
Many people carry the virus in their bodies but do not have their first episode of symptoms until they are infected another time.
Q: What is “tingling”?
A: Many people who are newly infected will hear a common description of “tingling” in connection with outbreaks. Tingling has been described best as a sensation similar to that of a rub burn, scraping of the skin or a feeling that the muscle has gone to sleep.
“Tingling” sensations associated with Genital Herpes have been most common in the calf, thigh, buttocks or lower back. “Tingling” sensations associated with Oral Herpes have been most common in the neck, jaw-line or muscles surrounding the mouth.
Q: Who is most susceptible to herpes?
A: Anyone who has sex; this includes vaginal, oral, or anal contact. But most people with genital herpes never recognize the signs of infection. So there are lots of people who have herpes and don’t even know it.
Q: Can I spread Herpes even when I am not having an outbreak?
A: Yes. The genital herpes virus can still be spread through the skin although there are no visible signs of an outbreak. This is called asymptomatic viral shedding. Up to 70% of people catch genital herpes from an infected partner who has no signs or symptoms. And since the symptoms are not always obvious, nine out of ten people who have genital herpes don’t even know they’re having an outbreak.
Q: I have Herpes, am I at risk of contracting another sexually transmitted infection?
A: Studies suggest that being infected with genital herpes may increase the likelihood of contracting other STDs while open sores are present. You and your partner should get tested for all types of STDs and continue practicing safe sex.
Q: How can my partner find out if he or she has genital herpes?
A: You should be open to the possibility that your partner may also have Genital Herpes. Nearly 85% of people who are infected with HSV-2 are unaware, because symptoms can be so subtle. Try to encourage your partner to speak to his or her healthcare provider. It’s far better to know what you’re dealing with so you can reduce the risk of spreading the herpes virus to others.
Q: What could happen if I have genital herpes and don’t know it?
A: You could pass it on to a partner. Or, if your partner has herpes and doesn’t know it, he or she could pass it to you. You could also spread herpes to another part of your body, like your mouth or your finger.
Q: If I am pregnant and have genital herpes, will I pass it on to my baby?
A: Women with genital herpes can have healthy babies. However, it is possible, if you become infected during pregnancy or you have an outbreak at the time of delivery, to transmit the infection to your baby. Therefore, it is particularly important to take appropriate precautions to prevent becoming infected during pregnancy, particularly if your partner has genital herpes and you don’t. It is strongly recommended that pregnant women who suspect that they may have genital herpes discuss this with their doctor or healthcare provider because there are precautions that can be taken to help protect the baby from infection.
Q: I think I may have genital herpes, what should I do?
A: With the help of your doctor or healthcare provider, genital herpes can be managed. Don’t take a chance. If you think you or your partner might have genital herpes, see your doctor or healthcare provider right away. Ask your doctor for a type-specific blood test. There are only two FDA-approved type-specific tests on the market. Herpes Select 1 and 2 ELISA produced by Focus Technologies and POCkit HSV-2 rapid point of care produced by Diagnology. Remember, herpes thrives on ignorance.
Q: How long does it take for sores to appear after infection?
A: In most “textbook” cases, primary herpes usually begins from two to three weeks after the virus enters the body. In some cases it has taken only a couple of days, while in others it can take much longer.
Q: What causes recurring outbreaks?
A: No one can be certain, however, in many cases recurrent outbreaks have been associated with other infections, stress, surgery, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and skin irritations like sunburn may bring on recurrences. A good diet, enough rest and sleep, and peace of mind may prevent recurrences.
Q: How can symptoms be relieved?
A: Warm baths or wet tea bags (not herbal) may give relief. Loose cotton clothes will help prevent chafing. Keep the sores dry by sprinkling cornstarch in undergarments — moisture can slow healing. Holding cool compresses or ice packs to the sores may be soothing. Aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may help relieve pain and fever.
A clinician may prescribe acyclovir, famiciclovir, or valacyclovir. They may speed up the healing of sores and weaken the virus. Using these medicines during outbreaks themselves is called episodic therapy.
We personally recommend trying a natural and organic treatment like H-Balm to reduce pain while prescribed antiviral medications do their job. H-Balm is an FDA registered homeopathic herpes medicine that eases pain and discomfort while helping to heal damaged skin. It also has a one year money back guarantee which makes it perfect for anyone not satisfied with their current herpes treatment.
Q: Is there a cure for Herpes?
A: NO! However, in most cases outbreaks become fewer and weaker over the course of a few years. They usually end within five or six years. Though it is very important to always remember that just because you do not have outbreaks does not mean you cannot pass on the virus. You are required by law in most states to disclose this information to your partner. Knowingly infecting a partner is against the law!
Q: Does Herpes cause cancer of the cervix?
A: No. Cervical cancer is associated with certain types of human papilloma viruses — but not the ones that cause genital warts. Pap tests can detect very early precancerous changes in the cervix. All women should have a Pap test at least once a year.