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Herpes treatment | How do you treat herpes?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Sexual Health

Herpes treatment

There is no treatment for herpes that will cure herpes. That is an important note to start with. 

On a more positive note however, antiviral medications can help to prevent and shorten both oral and genital herpes outbreaks.

Genital herpes may also be treated using a daily suppressive therapy which helps to reduce the risk of transmission from one person to another. 

Herpes treatment may involve oral medication (tablets) or injections which can help to shorten outbreaks and reduce the severity of outbreaks when they do occur.

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What is the best treatment for herpes?

According to a study published by the NCBI, “acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir are the most commonly used oral antivirals in the treatment of oral herpes. Oral acyclovir has been shown in two clinical trials to have modest efficacy in decreasing healing time and duration of pain when given early in the prodromal stages of recurrent orolabial herpes.”

When it comes to treating genital herpes, episodic and/or suppressive therapy may be used to help manage the condition. 

Suppressive therapy involves daily oral antiviral agents to prevent future recurrences and is typically reserved for patients with frequent and/or severe outbreaks. During episodic therapy, antiviral treatment is initiated at the onset of a recurrent outbreak to limit disease progression.

There are also lifestyle factors that can help to lower the risk of outbreaks such as stress reduction and lifestyle changes that support healthy immunity, such as a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise.

The supplement lysine has been shown to reduce outbreaks; however, you should always consult your physician before starting any supplements. Even natural supplements can have side effects or interact with other medications.

Does herpes come back in the exact same spot?

Herpes sores often come back in the same spot because the HSV virus lives in the nerves beneath that particular spot on the skin. 

While it is not guaranteed that a herpes sore will come back in the exact same spot, it is likely according to Harvard Health.  

When we talk about the virus being “dormant”, it means that the virus, while not active, is still sitting in the nerves. When the virus is active, it may lead to an “outbreak” which we see as blisters and/or sores. 

The best way to lower the manage outbreaks is by using antiviral medication which can be purchased over the counter, and in some instances prescribed by a doctor if you are living with severe outbreaks.

Can you live a normal life with herpes?

You can live a very normal life with herpes. If you are concerned that you have herpes or you have received a diagnosis for herpes, whether it’s HSV-I or HSV-II, it’s important to know that most things in your life do not have to change.

Herpes treatment very effectively manages outbreaks, and can ensure that the severity and frequency of your outbreaks are lessened. It’s also common for outbreaks to decrease in frequency and severity over the years.

When it comes to living with herpes, there are a number of things that you can do: 

  • Have open and honest conversations with sexual partners so both of you understand the risks 
  • Speak with your doctor regarding your specific case and ask about which medications are right for you 
  • Stock up on antiviral medications so you have them to hand during outbreaks 
  • Try your best to manage stress
  • Monitor upcoming weather changes and realize that it may have an impact on your likelihood of experiencing an outbreak 
  • Always wear SPF and ensure that you do not get sunburn as this can trigger an outbreak 
  • Aim to up your immunity through eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly 
  • Speak with your doctor in regards to whether or not you should include immunity-boosting supplements in your weekly routine

Home remedies for herpes

There are a number of home remedies and treatments that you can utilize when you have an outbreak to help with the healing process, such as: 

The use of ice-packs

Cover an ice-pack or (a bag of peas) with some soft fabric and place it on the sores, if that feels comfortable. A cold compress can help to reduce the pain, swelling and tingling sensations that may come with outbreaks. Make sure that there is fabric between you and the cold compress to ensure that you do not burst or further aggravate the sore. 

Keeping blisters/sores clean 

Open blisters and/or sores, when open may become infected if bacteria goes below the surface. Without touching your blisters and/or sores too much, make sure that you keep them nice and clean. 

Don’t touch!

Open blisters and sores are highly contagious, do not touch them! You could cause further infection and/or spreading of the sores and blisters. 

Inject self-care into your routine

Yoga, walking, movies, baths - whatever makes you go “ah!” - try to get more of those activities into your week. Your immunity is linked to your stress levels. The more you relax, the better your resilience. Make sure that you are getting enough “you-time” each week. 

Take painkillers when needed 

Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and surrounding inflammation. Your doctor could also recommend topical anesthetics to relieve pain during an outbreak.


Acupuncture has been used for the treatment of pain caused by herpes lesions with some beneficial results. This treatment method, while mildly helpful, has also rarely been associated with the transmission of HSV, so it is best to consider it with caution.

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Can you sleep with someone with herpes and not get it?

You can sleep with someone with herpes and not get it IF the person you are sleeping with is between outbreaks. (I.e. the person you are sleeping with doesn’t have any active sores), however, you should ensure that you have an open conversation before having sex and understand that there is always a risk attached. 

Does herpes make you smell?

Herpes may have a “fishy” smell which gets worse following sex. Usually, the smell associated with herpes comes from the open sores and/or blisters on the genitals. Oral herpes does not have a smell in most cases. 

What triggers a herpes outbreak?

There are a number of factors that can trigger a herpes outbreak such as: 

  • Emotional stress or feeling run down
  • Too much physical exertion 
  • Illness
  • Injury 
  • Fatigue 
  • Genital stimulation during sexual intercourse 
  • Menstrual periods 
  • Changes in season such as extreme cold or heat 
  • Changes in immunity or low immunity to health conditions such as HIV and diabetes
  • Cancer treatment, or chemotherapy 
  • Surgery 

Read: What are the symptoms of herpes?

Can you tell who gave you herpes?

It is not always possible to tell who gave you herpes. If you have seen visible blisters and/or sores during kissing or sex with a particular person, it may be that person. 

However, the only way to know for sure is if both parties get tested. 

Read: Home STD Testing: 6 Best At-Home STD Test Kits in 2021

Written by Hannah Kingston on May 10, 2021




Hannah Kingston

Hannah Kingston

Dec 11, 2022

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