Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) and Type II (HSV-2). The Type I virus is the same one that causes cold sores on the mouth, face and lips, although it can also cause sores on the genitals. The Type II virus, however, most often causes sores on the genitals.
Herpes can spread to the genitals from a cold sore if hand washing and other hygiene precautions are not taken. Or it can be spread though oral or genital sexual contact. And be warned: The virus does not have to be in an active state -- that is, blisters do not have to be present -- for a partner to become infected [source: NLM].
The virus can also be passed during the preactive state, when there is itching or tingling in the area where the sores generally appear. Sometimes, the virus can be passed along before the infected person is even aware that the virus is present. What's more, saliva also carries the virus [source: NLM].
The first episode usually starts within a couple weeks of exposure, and the initial onset can be pretty bad, including an initial round and then a second round of painful sores, flulike symptoms, fever and swollen glands. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, however, and appear as little more than insect bites or a rash.
Once you have genital herpes, you have it for life [source: NLM]. Luckily, it spends most of its life, and yours, dormant. But, like cold sores, genital herpes recurs, often up to four or five times a year. There are a few home remedies that can help you through an episode, however. Head over to the next page to learn more.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
10: Warm Bath
Adding Epsom salt to a warm bath not only helps relax sore muscles, but its healing properties could shorten recovery time [source: Grayson].
First on the list is a simple act that brings comfort to any ailing body: a warm bath.
Soaking in a bath of warm water can alleviate the pain associated with the sores brought on by a bout of genital herpes [source: NLM].
One caveat: Soaking in a tub promotes shedding of the virus, thus increasing the chance of spreading it. While a warm shower is a good alternative, you should take care to clean shower or tub if you share it with someone who doesn't have the virus.
Following a bath, make sure to dry the affected area thoroughly, as moisture prolongs symptomatic sores [source: NLM].
9: Soap and Warm Water
Another home remedy for genital herpes, similar to No. 10, is consistent use of soap and warm water on the affected area [source: NLM].
Keeping an area that's covered with sores clean and free of infection is one step closer to healing the sores. Though herpes outbreaks are different for each person infected and involve a number of factors, mild disinfectants like soap are encouraged in every case.
Run warm water through a cloth and apply soap directly to the area. This can have the same alleviating sensation as taking a warm bath without taking as much time.
And like our previous remedy, remember to thoroughly dry off after washing down [source: ASHA].
8: Baking Soda/Cornstarch
Domeboro powder, an over-the-counter medication, is an astringent used to speed healing in skin rashes like poison ivy or athlete's foot. It also works wonders on herpetic sores, both drying them and reducing the associated itching [source: Grayson].
Powders have long been used for their drying properties. Two such -- baking soda and cornstarch -- serve a variety of around-the-house purposes, from brushing teeth to drying out oily hair. They also work great on the sores that come from genital herpes [source: Grayson].
Either remedy, both of which are common, inexpensive and available at your local supermarket, can be applied to open sores. The idea is to keep the area as dry as possible to promote faster healing [source: ASHA].
Using a cotton ball, pat baking soda or cornstarch on the sores to dry them out and decrease itching.
Though it should be common sense, just be careful not to double dip: You don't want to contaminate the unused baking soda/cornstarch [source: Grayson].
The next home remedy on our list is a natural supplement found in vitamin and health food stores: lysine, or L-lysine.
Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning it's needed for life but not naturally produced by the body [source: UMMC]. Most humans consume lysine through meat or legumes, but over-the-counter supplements are also widely available to increase that amount.
Though studies differ on its efficacy, lysine is thought to better prevent an outbreak than cure one. Regardless, it's a home remedy that many people who suffer from herpes simplex virus Type I or Type II use [source: UMMC].
Note: Before taking lysine or any other dietary supplement, consult your physician [source: ASHA]. Lysine has been known to interact with some medications, and it's generally not recommended in higher doses for people with kidney or liver disease.
6: Tea Bags
There's nothing like a hot cup of tea on a cold winter day or an ice-cold glass of tea in summer's heat. But there's also a little-known use for the tea bag that can help those suffering from genital herpes.
Placing a cold, wet black tea bag directly to the sores has been known as an alternative treatment to flare-ups. Some think the tannins found naturally in tea leaves are part of the secret [source: Grayson].
Regardless, heat water long enough to douse a tea bag, then cool it down immediately. Place the cooled tea bag right on the sores.
When finished, throw the bag away and dry the area thoroughly [source: ASHA].
One of the best ways to relieve pain and itching associated with an outbreak is one of nature's most basic miracles: ice.
To reduce symptoms, apply ice to the affected area [source: Grayson]. Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice, wrapping the bag in material the thickness of a sheet. Apply for 10 or 15 minutes, and repeat several times a day. Make sure and discard any plastic bags after one use.
As a precaution, take care with the amount of time applied, because prolonged exposure to ice can cause tissue damage, not to mention the overall sensitivity of the genital area.
4: Aloe Vera
A plant that has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, knowledge of aloe vera dates back as far as 1750 B.C. from Mesopotamian clay tablets. And Egyptian books from 550 B.C. mention its specific use to heal the skin [source: Shelton].
As in dealing with sunburns, apply aloe vera gel directly to herpes sores and allow the gel to dry. Whether directly from an aloe plant or from a commercial bottle, the cooling effect of the gel can help ease pain and promote healing [source: Davis]. But as with other items on this list, you'll want to keep the area dry to speed up healing of the sores.
There's nothing like a good night's sleep. In addition, taking a break throughout the day allows your body to rest and recharge.
If you were sick with any illness, a doctor would recommend you get plenty of rest. That goes the same during a genital herpes outbreak, where the once-dormant virus kicks back into gear and attacks the spot of bodily entry -- for simplex Type II, the genital or buttocks area [source: NLM].
To help your immune system push the virus into dormancy, take steps to rest throughout the day. While most people can't nap on the job (at least not when the boss is looking), patients can cut out activities that put a strain on the body, like exercise or physical exertion [source: NLM].
2: Stress Management
People deal with stress in various ways, but interestingly enough, friendship has been shown to help reduce levels [source: APA]. So take a deep breath, grab a healthy meal with friends and start the path back to peace.
In college facing a major exam? Is your company relying on you to make the next big sale? If you find your outbreaks seem connected to the big events in life, you may be surprised to find out why.
Stress has been directly linked to suppression of the immune system, your body's way of keeping the herpes virus dormant and in check [source: APA]. Successful stress management can reduce the frequency of outbreaks [source: ASHA].
Being conscientious of the fact is the first step in reducing stress associated with outbreaks.
1: Breathable Clothing
Remember all our previous talk about keeping sores dry during an outbreak of herpes? Much of that has to do with the kinds of clothing you wear. Breathable clothing goes a long way toward shortening the symptoms of an outbreak [source: ASHA].
When dealing with sores, remember to wear loose-fitting clothing [source: NLM]. This allows air to circulate and keeps sweat and moisture away from the affected area.
Cotton is the best option when choosing breathable underwear. Avoid synthetic fabrics or silk underwear until the outbreak has passed. Also, don't wear tight-fitting pants, whether made of cotton, polyester or any another fabric [source: NLM].