Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and Type 2 (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.
How You Get Genital Herpes
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. The virus can also be passed during the preactive state, when there is itching or tingling in the area in which the sores generally appear. Sometimes, the virus can be passed along before the infected person is even aware that the virus is being shed. What's more, saliva also carries the virus!
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. 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.
Home Remedies from the Cupboard
Baking soda. Using a cotton ball, pat baking soda on the sores to dry them out and decrease itching. Just be careful not to double dip: You don't want to contaminate the unused baking soda.
Cornstarch. This also can help dry out the sores and help alleviate itching. Use a cotton ball that's been dipped in cornstarch and dust it onto the sores.
Food. Eat well to boost your immune system.
Peppermint Tea. A nice cup of peppermint tea may help reduce pain and fever.
Tea. Place a cold wet tea bag right on the sores. Tannic acid can soothe genital tissues. Throw away the tea bag afterward.
Home Remedies from the Freezer
Ice. To reduce pain and itching, apply ice to the sores. Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice or use a bag of frozen peas. Wrap the bag in material the thickness of a sheet. Apply for 10 or 15 minutes, and repeat several times a day. Be careful about the time because prolonged exposure to ice can cause tissue damage.
Home Remedies from the Refrigerator
Milk. For pain relief and to promote healing, soak cotton balls in milk and apply to the area.
More Do's and Don'ts
Don't depend on a condom to protect you or your partner. They help, but they may not cover the entire area. Viral shedding may also occur in the infected area, making the spread of the disease to a sexual partner easy, even if protection is used. Be sure to use a latex or vinyl condom between outbreaks.
Don't wear tight-fitting pants or underwear.
Shower, don't soak in the tub. Shedding virus can escape into the water.
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