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Herpes: Tips to Reduce and Manage Outbreaks


September 18, 2018 | Published by

Herpes – even the word alone can cause fear or embarrassment. Though herpes can cause discomfort and social anxiety, it is quite common and shouldn’t be shamed. It’s estimated that more than 60% of the population is infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This is the type that develops as cold sores or fever blisters, usually around the mouth. Genital herpes (HSV-2) is common as well. The CDC estimates that more than 1 in 6 of people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. In this blog we’re offering tips to help reduce and manage herpes outbreaks.

Tips to Reduce Outbreaks

Regardless of what type, the goal with herpes is to avoid or minimize outbreaks. Taking steps to keep yourself healthy can help minimize the risk of future outbreaks. Things you can do include:

  • Get plenty of sleep. This helps keep your immune system strong. Tips for getting better sleep
  • Eat healthy foods. Good nutrition also helps your immune system stay strong. Eat as many whole natural foods as possible and keep processed and junk foods to a minimum.
  • Manage your stress as best as you can. Constant stress can weaken your immune system. Tips for managing stress
  • Protect yourself from the sun, wind, and extreme cold and heat. Use sunscreen, especially on your lips. On windy, cold, or hot days, stay indoors or take steps to guard against the weather.

Managing Outbreaks

Neither form of herpes is curable. The virus can remain dormant for a long time, and can “wake up” at any time, triggering a surprise outbreak. The pattern of outbreaks varies widely in people with herpes. Some people carry the virus and never have symptoms. Others may have only one outbreak or outbreaks that occur rarely. Some people have regular outbreaks that occur every 1 to 4 weeks.

Outbreaks can be triggered by:

  • Fatigue
  • Genital irritation
  • Menstruation
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Injury

Outbreaks can be managed by:

Using plain soap and water to wash

You may be inclined to bombard your newly discovered sores with everything in your medicine cabinet. As with any sores, you do need to be concerned about developing a secondary (bacterial) infection, but soap and water is all you need or want to keep the area sufficiently germ-free.

Steering clear of ointments

Herpes sores need lots of air to heal. Petroleum jelly and antibiotic ointments can block this air and slow the healing process. Avoid cortisone creams, as they can inhibit your immune system and encourage the virus to grow.

Using warm water for relief

During your primary attack or bad secondary attacks, a warm bath or shower 3 or 4 times a day may provide soothing relief to the affected area.

Drying off with 2 towels

During an outbreak use a separate towel to dry off the affected area. Wash the towel after each use.

Blow drying the area

When you get out of the shower or bath, blow dry the affected area with a hair dryer set on low or cool, taking care not to burn yourself. The air from the dryer also proves soothing and may possibly speed up the healing process by helping to dry out the sores.

Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear

Because air is essential to healing, wear only underpants that allow your skin to breathe. Cotton works best and avoid any synthetic materials. If you wear nylon pantyhose, make sure the crotch is made of cotton. If you want to wear a bathing suit without compromising fashion, consider cutting the cotton crotch out of a pair of undies and sewing it into the swimsuit.

Avoiding contact with the blisters

it is possible, though not very common, to pass the virus to other parts of the body by touching a herpes blister then touching your mouth or eye. For this reason, it’s important to wash your hands if there’s contact with a sore. If you think you might scratch at night, cover the inflamed area with protective, breathable material such as gauze.

Learning and avoiding your triggers

The factors that contribute to a recurrence are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV for them. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (a common trigger for oral herpes) like a beach trip or skiing weekend for example, surgical trauma, and steroidal medication (such as asthma treatment) may trigger a herpes outbreak. The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise.


Genital Herpes – Self Care. MedLine Plus.

“19 Strategies To Manage Genital Herpes Symptoms And Reduce Outbreaks.” Prevention Magazine. June 21, 2014.

Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet.

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