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Genital Herpes Simplex


Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It is spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It may be spread even if you do not see blisters. It can also be spread to other areas of your body, including your eyes, by touching open blisters. If you are pregnant, it may be spread to your baby while he is still in your womb or during vaginal delivery.



  • Antivirals: These help decrease symptoms and shorten the time you have the blisters. You may also need to take them daily to prevent blisters. Take them as directed.
  • Topical anesthesia: This helps numb the area and decreases pain.
  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for more tests, or to make sure your medicine is working. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage your symptoms:

The following are things you can do to be more comfortable when your infection is active:

  • Keep the blisters clean and dry: Wash them with soap and warm water, and dry gently.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing: This may help to keep the blisters dry and keep clothes from rubbing.
  • Ice: Ice helps decrease pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Heat: Heat may also help decrease pain. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. A warm bath may also help.

Prevent the spread of genital herpes:

  • Use condoms: Use a latex condom when you have oral, genital, and anal sex. Use a new condom each time. Use a polyurethane condom if you are allergic to latex. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about condoms.
  • Try not to touch your blisters: If you need to touch the area, wash your hands before and after you touch the area. If you have blisters around your mouth, do not kiss anyone. Do not breastfeed if you have blisters on your breast.
  • Talk to your partners: Tell your partners that you have been diagnosed with genital herpes. Do not have sex with someone until he knows that you have genital herpes. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to tell partners about your infection.
  • Talk to your healthcare providers: Tell your healthcare providers that you have genital herpes. If you are pregnant, your baby may need special monitoring. Inform your healthcare provider of your condition to avoid spreading the infection to your baby. You may also need to deliver your baby by cesarean section (C-section). A C-section is surgery to remove your baby from your body.

For more information:

  • American Social Health Association (ASHA)
    P.O. Box 13827
    Research Triangle Park , NC 27709
    Web Address:
  • Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd.
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have chills or a fever.
  • You have painful blisters on your penis, vagina, anus, or mouth.
  • Fluid or blood is coming out of your genitals.
  • You have trouble urinating.
  • Your symptoms stay the same or get worse.
  • You have trouble chewing or swallowing.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You think you are pregnant and you are bleeding from your vagina.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a seizure.
  • Your neck is stiff.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.