The herpes simplex virus causes herpes, which is a viral ailment (HSV). Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the most common cause of oral herpes, popularly known as cold sores, whereas herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the most common cause of genital herpes (HSV-1).
Herpes isn’t curable, although it can be managed with antiviral medications. The medications can be used to not only treat symptoms and limit outbreaks but also to prevent recurrences. The risk of infecting others is considerably reduced when herpes is adequately treated.
Home remedies, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, prescription treatments, and complementary and alternative therapies are all discussed in this article as treatment options for oral and genital herpes.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Herpes pain relief is provided through at-home therapies. They don’t change the course of the virus, but they can help you feel better as the herpes sores heal.
If you have an outbreak of oral or genital herpes, there are various things you can do:
- Apply a cold compress to the affected area. To relieve pain, apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the sores for 15 minutes several times a day. To avoid frostbite, keep the ice pack moving.
- Do not scratch or touch the surface. It’s best not to touch or rub the sores. This may spread the infection to other parts of the body.
- Maintain the cleanliness of the sores. Bacteria can infect herpes sores if they are touched with dirty hands. After using the restroom or before administering drugs, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. 3
- Reduce your stress levels. During a herpes outbreak, stress might make you more sensitive to pain. You can relieve stress by doing gentle exercises or engaging in mind-body therapies such as meditation, yoga, or guided imagery.
- Avoid kissing and sharing cups, cutlery, towels, washcloths, and personal care products to prevent the spread of herpes.
Oral herpes can spread to the genitals, while genital herpes can spread to the mouth. Use condoms and dental dams during oral intercourse to limit the risk of infection. If you have an active herpes outbreak, you should avoid sex altogether (or feel an outbreak coming on)
Antiviral Drugs: What Are They and How Do They Work?
For the treatment of oral or genital herpes, three oral antivirals are recommended:
- Famvir (famciclovir)
- Valtrex (valacyclovir)
- Zovirax (acyclovir)
- For the treatment of recurrent oral herpes, three topical antivirals have been approved:
- Denavir (penciclovir) cream
- Xerese (acyclovir + hydrocortisone) cream
- Zovirax (acyclovir) cream
- Intravenous acyclovir is the most common treatment for disseminated herpes.
Although there is no cure for herpes, outbreaks can be managed with at-home therapies and over-the-counter pain relievers.
Antiviral medications treat herpes infections directly and may help shorten the duration or intensity of an outbreak. This includes over-the-counter antivirals like Abreva (docosanol) and prescription antivirals like Zovirax (acyclovir) and Valtrex (valacyclovir). In those who have recurrent outbreaks, antivirals can be used daily to avoid epidemics.
Oral and genital herpes are sometimes treated using complementary and alternative therapies, but there is little clinical evidence to support their use.