How To Manage Genital Herpes
Learn how to manage genital herpes using three research-based methods in this expert guide to herpes management
Updated: Thursday 26 October 2023
Genital herpes can sometimes be misunderstood due to certain stigmas associated with the condition. In recent times, increasingly effective herpes management methods have come to light as research on this condition continues.
In this article, our pharmacy team discusses how to manage genital herpes using evidence-based methods involving lifestyle changes and effective medication.
How To Manage Genital Herpes
What’s the difference between genital herpes management and genital herpes treatment?
Treating genital herpes is primarily about alleviating symptoms. On the other hand, managing genital herpes is about preventing outbreaks and minimising the spread of Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (also known as HSV-2, which is the virus that causes genital herpes).
The difference between treating and managing herpes has much to do with the chronic nature of the condition. Preventing outbreaks can cause less discomfort than addressing symptoms once an outbreak has occurred - so while herpes treatments can help relieve symptoms, herpes management is more of a long-term approach centred on living with herpes. This can be achieved through certain lifestyle changes and by taking certain medications to keep HSV-2 dormant.
Recommended ways to manage genital herpes
1. Pat or air-dry the affected area
According to research, there is a positive correlation between moisture in the area affected by genital herpes and the prevalence of HSV-2 due to the fact that the virus thrives in moist conditions.
Moisture can also slow the healing process of open genital herpes sores by preventing them from drying out and creating a breeding ground for bacteria. This can lead to infections that can delay healing and make sores more painful.
Our pharmacy team recommends drying the affected area by gently patting the affected area with a different towel to the one used to dry the rest of the body to avoid cross-contamination. This can help dry out the fluid inside open sores, making it a simple yet highly effective way to manage genital herpes.
If patting the area dry is too painful, it may be worth using a hair dryer that has a cold air setting on the lowest fan power to air dry the area.
Recommended reading: The 5 stages of a genital herpes outbreak
2. Opt for breathable fabrics
Studies on the moisture-wicking properties of various fabrics have shown that synthetic materials like nylon have lower water vapour permeability than cotton. In other words, synthetic materials do not allow water molecules to pass through them as easily as breathable fabrics. This can contribute to the kind of warm and moist conditions that make it difficult to manage genital herpes as it can delay the time taken for open herpes sores to heal.
Therefore, our experts recommend opting for breathable fabrics like cotton - especially when choosing undergarments.
3. Take antiviral medication
According to several prominent medical sources[4,5], antiviral medications such as Aciclovir, Valaciclovir, and Valtrex can help treat symptoms and prevent genital herpes outbreaks by suppressing HSV-2 in the body. It is important to note that the required dosage of each of these medications to treat symptoms is different to preventing outbreaks. It is recommended to consult a pharmacist or GP before taking these medications.
Aciclovir helps to suppress the HSV-2 virus, preventing it from multiplying and spreading. This makes Aciclovir ideal for managing genital herpes because taking it can significantly reduce the chances of an infection or outbreak. It can also reduce the duration of genital herpes outbreak should it occur.
Valaciclovir is known as a ‘prodrug’ of Aciclovir, which means it is converted into Aciclovir once it is consumed. Moreover, Valaciclovir has been found to remain in the body after consumption as it is better absorbed, making it effective at providing longer-lasting defences against genital herpes. This also means less frequent doses are required.
Valtrex is a medically equivalent, branded form of Valaciclovir.
Recommended reading: Your guide to treating and suppressing herpes
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