How is genital herpes managed or treated?

If you have mild symptoms or infrequent outbreaks, you might not need or want treatment. During an outbreak, these steps can ease symptoms:

  • Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
  • Keep genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.

Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill, intravenous injection or skin cream. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.

What are the complications of genital herpes?

People who have open sores from genital herpes are twice as likely to get HIV compared to people without herpes. This risk is yet another reason why it’s important to use condoms.

How does genital herpes affect pregnancy?

Genital herpes doesn’t affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women with a diagnosis of herpes genitalis are recommended to start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to prevent outbreaks during time of delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal (at birth) herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.

Is it safe to breastfeed if I have genital herpes?

Yes- as long as there is no open lesion on chest or breast . If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, it’s possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldn’t nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Don’t give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.

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