Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. Once you’re exposed to this virus, it enters your nerve cells, where it can live for the rest of your life. It’s possible for the virus to reactivate at any time. When it’s active, it may cause sores, and you may be able to pass the virus on to others. Even when you don’t have sores, you may be able to pass on the virus.
In order to protect both themselves and their partners, many people are wondering how to check for herpes at home. How can you know whether you’ve been infected with this virus? Is there a rapid herpes test that you can get at home?
How is an at home genital herpes test performed?
While there are a few different ways to test for herpes, the one that’s usually used for home testing is a blood test. Sometimes known as a “herpes rapid test,” this is a blood test that looks for antibodies against the herpes virus. Antibodies are produced by your body in response to an infection. Having antibodies against the herpes virus means that you’ve been exposed to the virus.
You simply order a herpes rapid test kit online, and it’s sent to your home in discreet packaging that doesn’t show what’s inside. You take your blood sample yourself at home, using a fingerprick. After you send your sample back to the lab, herpes test online results will be available within a few days.
One benefit of doing the test at home is that it helps to maintain your privacy. Your results won’t be reported to your insurance company, nor will they show up on a document called an explanation of benefits (EOB), which insurance companies routinely send after paying for something. Anyone who shares your insurance may be able to see the fact that you were tested on the EOB, even if they can’t see your results. Testing at home helps to prevent this situation and keep your testing entirely private.
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How accurate is the at home herpes test kit?
When you use a reputable at home testing service, then your blood sample will be sent to an accredited laboratory, just as it would if you were getting a blood test ordered by your doctor. This means that the laboratory meets the standards of the US Department of Health & Human Services for accuracy on medical tests. Whether you take the sample at home or it gets taken in a doctor’s office, it gets sent to the same laboratory.
If you get a positive result on a herpes blood test, this likely indicates that you’ve been exposed to the virus. Because the herpes virus enters nerve cells and can stay dormant there for a person’s whole life, if you’ve been exposed to herpes, then you’re considered to have herpes.
However, there are also false positives on this test. A false positive means that the test shows that you have herpes, when you really don’t. In fact, false positive results on the herpes test are more common than for other types of STD tests. This is why doctors don’t routinely screen everybody for herpes; some people may feel distressed about getting a positive result, when it was actually only a false positive.
If you do get a positive result on your home herpes test, then it’s important to talk with a healthcare provider to decide what to do. You may want to get another test to confirm your result. Home testing services will generally connect you with a healthcare provider so you can discuss your results.
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Which type of herpes virus does the herpes home test look for?
The virus that causes herpes is known as the herpes simplex virus, or HSV. There are actually two types of the virus: HSV 1 and HSV 2. It’s more common for people to have HSV 1 in the mouth (where it causes cold sores), and HSV 2 is more common on the genitals (where it causes genital herpes). However, HSV 1 can also infect the genitals, and HSV 2 can also infect the mouth.
In some cases, home test kits perform only an HSV 2 test at home. In other cases, a home test kit may check for both types of the virus. If you’re interested in checking for both forms of the virus, make sure you’re ordering a kit that includes an HSV 1 home test as well as an HSV 2 home test.
Is there another type of over the counter herpes test?
Another way to test for herpes is to test the fluid from a blister when you have one. However, this type of test requires you to wait until you have a herpes outbreak before you test for herpes. This makes it unsuitable as a screening test.
In addition, because herpes causes a distinctive appearance, having herpes blisters is usually a good indication that you have herpes. Doctors often don’t even test the blisters, because they can tell it’s herpes by the appearance. Because of this, a home test kit for herpes blisters would probably not be very useful.
For these reasons, this type of herpes test is not available over the counter. The only type of genital herpes home test kit that’s generally available is the blood test for antibodies to the virus.
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Genital Herpes Screening FAQ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/screening.htm. Accessed 29 August 2022.
Genital Herpes. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/herpes-hsv1-and-hsv2/genital-herpes. Accessed 29 August 2022.
Herpes Tests. Kaiser Permanente. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hw264763. Accessed 29 August 2022.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Serologic Screening for Genital Herpes Infection:
US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2593575. Accessed 29 August 2022.