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How to Treat Herpes Sores
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22 Dec 2023

How to Treat Herpes Sores

Genital herpes isn't similar to bacterial infections, which can be treated with antibiotics. This doesn't mean enduring herpes outbreaks for extended, uncomfortable periods. A genital herpes flare-up can interfere with social interactions, distract you at work, and cause significant irritation. On a positive note, mastering quick healing techniques for herpes sores could allow you to sidestep the most severe symptoms and swiftly resume your regular life.

Eliminating herpes sores rapidly and hastening the healing process is possible with correct methods. Let’s discuss the ways to avert herpes outbreaks and expedite their resolution when they do occur.

Early warning signs of genital herpes

HSV can be transmitted even when patients exhibit no visible symptoms. You might contract the virus responsible for genital herpes and either never experience an outbreak or have one emerge years later. Although HSV-2's typical incubation period is 2-12 days, genital herpes may not manifest within this timeframe. It's feasible to carry the virus and be contagious without developing genital herpes sores.

Should you have genital herpes, the initial indicators of an outbreak often include:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Itching, numbness, or tingling 1-3 days prior to the appearance of sores
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Blisters or sores around the anus, genitals, inner thighs, and near the mouth
  • Headaches

How to avoid the outbreak of herpes: Know the possible risks

In order to minimize the risk of a herpes outbreak, it's important to be aware of factors that may increase its likelihood. Being mindful of these can help you take preventive measures:

  • Tiredness: When you're fatigued, your immune system might weaken, potentially triggering a herpes outbreak.
  • Menstruation: Some people experience herpes outbreaks during their menstrual cycle.
  • Genital irritation and sexual activity: Engaging in sex, especially if experiencing dryness or soreness, can lead to an outbreak. Using a water-based lubricant may help.
  • Uncomfortable underwear: Synthetic materials can restrict skin breathing, causing irritation and potentially leading to an outbreak.
  • Emotional and physical stress: Stress can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to an outbreak. Techniques like exercise or meditation can help manage stress.
  • Unhealthy diet: Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system.
  • Extreme temperatures: Both very hot and very cold weather conditions can trigger a herpes outbreak.

Being aware of these risk factors allows you to take steps to prevent an outbreak, or at least be better prepared for its occurrence.

Catch a herpes outbreak early

Catching a genital herpes outbreak early is key to mitigating its severity. Although it's not always possible to prevent an outbreak – as they can sometimes occur seemingly without cause – early detection can help you avoid the worst symptoms. Common early signs include a tingling, burning, or itching sensation around the genital or buttocks area. You might also experience pain in your lower back, thighs, and knee joints. These symptoms typically precede the appearance of the first sores.

As you become more familiar with your condition, you'll start to recognize the specific ways in which the virus manifests in your body. This awareness allows you to take proactive steps to manage the outbreak more effectively.

How long can a genital herpes outbreak last?

The initial outbreak of genital herpes following infection typically spans between two and four weeks. Afterward, outbreaks can be expected around two to six times annually. These subsequent episodes usually last about a week, though the exact duration can vary by a few days, and they often become less frequent as time passes. Each individual's experience with these outbreaks can differ.

How to treat herpes sores quickly

If you're experiencing an outbreak, here are methods to expedite the healing of herpes sores:

Home treatment

  • Ice Pack Application: Apply ice pack in a cloth and apply it to the affected area several times a day to reduce the burning sensation.
  • Loose-Fitting Clothing: Opt for loose, breathable clothes, preferably made of cotton, to allow your skin to breathe.
  • Maintain Cleanliness: Gently clean the area around the sores with saltwater or plain water to prevent infection.
  • Urinating in Water: During an outbreak, some find relief in urinating while submerged in a bath or under the shower stream.
  • Avoid Touching the Sores: Resist the urge to touch or pick at the sores, as this increases the risk of infection.

Take antiviral medication

To expedite the healing process of herpes, consider taking an antiviral medication. Antivirals are effective in combating the herpes virus and can reduce the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting it. They can also shorten the duration of an initial outbreak by about two days and decrease the frequency of outbreaks by approximately one-third each year.

While there are no medications that completely cure herpes, they are beneficial in alleviating symptoms during the body's recovery period. Your doctor might suggest medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir. These drugs inhibit the rapid replication of the virus once it has infected skin cells, triggering an outbreak. This delay allows the immune system more time to combat the infection before blisters develop on your genitals or mouth.

Changes in the diet

  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Excessive or frequent alcohol intake can suppress white blood cells, which are crucial for the immune system to control viruses. High alcohol consumption coupled with reduced white blood cell count could increase the risk of an outbreak.
  • Reduce Acidic Foods: Acidic foods can irritate cold sores and potentially affect your body's nutrient absorption, altering immune system function. Focus on consuming fewer acidic foods and reducing sugar, processed foods, and sodas.
  • Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These anti-inflammatory nutrients support various health aspects, including the immune system. Many diets lack sufficient omega-3s. Incorporate foods high in healthy fats like chia seeds, flaxseed, mackerel, and salmon to boost omega-3 intake.
  • Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, found in the gut can regulate the immune system's response. These strains of probiotics can help balance the immune response and overall function in relation to the herpes simplex virus.

How to lessen the outbreak

While it's impossible to completely prevent genital herpes outbreaks, there are measures you can take to reduce their frequency:

  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Regularly eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising are key to supporting immune health. The immune system plays a vital role in suppressing the herpes simplex virus and preventing its reactivation. If your immune system is compromised, it could lead to a new outbreak.
  • Reduce Stress: Stress is known to be associated with immune dysfunction and can trigger herpes outbreaks. Implementing stress- reducing practices such as meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques can be beneficial.
  • Adhere to Antiviral Medication Regimen: If you have been prescribed antiviral medications, it's important to take them exactly as directed by your doctor. These medications can help manage the virus and reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

When you need to see a doctor

It's important to seek medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider if you encounter any of the following situations:

  • Worsening Symptoms Post-Medication: If the symptoms of your outbreak intensify or don't improve after starting medication.
  • Frequent Outbreaks: Experiencing outbreaks more often than usual.
  • Persistent Sores: If sores have not healed after 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Outbreak During Pregnancy: Experiencing an outbreak while pregnant, as it can have implications for both the mother and the unborn child.

If you suspect you have genital herpes for the first time, it's essential to consult a medical provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. For recurring herpes outbreaks, medical attention may not always be necessary unless you experience complications, difficulty with healing, or are pregnant.

Although there's no cure for genital herpes, a healthcare professional can suggest over-the-counter and other treatments that may accelerate the healing of sores, decrease the frequency of outbreaks, and alleviate discomfort.

Dealing with genital herpes can feel embarrassing, but it's important to prioritize your comfort and well-being. A medical doctor will provide a judgment-free environment, focusing on giving you the proper care and helping you find relief.

You can consult with our experienced doctors at STI Clinic London and know how to heal herpes sores faster.