Symptoms and treatments of herpes

Symptoms and treatments of herpes

Herpes is a long-term medical condition that has no cure. With that said, many people who carry herpes are asymptomatic but can unknowingly spread the virus to others.

There are two types of herpes (herpes simplex complex). These are known as HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the less severe oral herpes, which is associated with cold sores, while HSV-2 is genital herpes that is commonly spread through unprotected sex.

The vast majority who are infected with herpes simplex complex will not manifest any symptoms for months or even years post-exposure. However, those who do experience symptoms straight away post-exposure will see them display between 2 to 12 days.

A lot of people with herpes tend to have outbreaks that reoccur less frequently and in less severe forms over their life. However, many primary infection symptoms can be quite severe in nature and can include things like blisters, itchiness, pain when urinating, and cold sores around the mouth. While these symptoms are severe at the start of infection, subsequent outbreaks are usually less severe and occur with less regularity.


Herpes infection occurs from contact between people. Regardless of what some myths may say, it cannot be contracted by sharing a toilet seat or another surface that an infected person has used. Herpes is passed between people via kissing, unprotected anal or vaginal sex, oral sex with someone who has cold sores, sharing of sex toys, and even non-penetrative genital contact with someone who is infected.

It is often transmitted quickly between sexual partners before symptoms develop. A mother who has herpes sores may pass it on to their baby when giving birth.


There are no medications that can kill the herpes virus, but antiviral herpes medications can slow the spread and reduce the severity of symptoms. These antiviral medications are most often prescribed for primary infection when the outbreak is severe but become less necessary with future outbreaks.

There are many home remedies to deal with the symptoms of a herpes outbreak, ranging from bathing in partially salted water to applying petroleum jelly to the affected area. These do not kill the virus, but may be helpful in alleviating some symptoms.

It is important that those who know or suspect they are infected with herpes refrain from sexual activity until they can speak to a doctor and inform all sexual partners of the problem.


Prevention of herpes transmission is related to limiting sexual contact and risk of exposure. This means using condoms during sex and avoiding sex altogether when an outbreak is present. This also includes not kissing when an oral outbreak (cold sore) is present. Using a lubricant during sex with condoms can also help reduce the chance of transmission.


Accurate herpes online tests need to be conducted by a doctor by taking a swab from the outbreak area. In some cases, bloodwork may be necessary to assist with diagnosis.

Living with herpes

While herpes is an embarrassing issue for many people, it is a common STI and is not life-threatening. People with herpes have a responsibility to inform sexual partners and practise safe sex to avoid transmission.

Anyone with questions about herpes can book a telehealth consultation with one of our registered GP’s at Instant Consult.