This past Thursday, October 13th was National Herpes Awareness Day, so for this week, I'd like to shed some light on the well-known virus and break down the stigmas surrounding it.
Herpes is a virus that's been around for millions of years and is something that has existed in humans through multiple evolutionary phases. It hasn't always been a discrete virus that people don't talk about - mainly because herpes isn't just a sexually transmitted disease. You can come into contact with the virus by sharing water with someone, and in some cases, it can be passed down through childbirth. Regardless, herpes wasn't actively stigmatized as a shameful disease until the '80s. During this time, herpes was sensationalized and if you had genital herpes you were seen as dirty - which is a harmful stereotype that still floats around today.
One of the main points I'd like to get across is that if you have herpes, it's not something to be embarrassed or ashamed over. It's a relatively harmless disease, but it does affect about 12% of the population, more so in women than in men. So if you are made to feel alone, you are not! Millions of people have herpes and are perfectly capable of living a healthy life and having healthy, loving, sex-fueled relationships. I know it's easier said than done, so if you do feel embarrassed or ashamed, know that that's completely normal and that there are resources out there for you. The American Sexual Health Association has support groups that you can attend as well.
Symptoms and Testing Options
It's important to note that when it comes to herpes, you might not show any symptoms. Plenty of the signs can be confused for pimples, ingrown hairs, and the flu. If you have Oral Herpes, you'll notice cold sores on or around the mouth, maybe even inside as well. Make sure you don't mess with these sores or try to pop them like you would a normal pimple. When you have a breakout, it's best to leave that area alone until it clears up. If you do mess with them, make sure to wash your hands so you can prevent the spread of it elsewhere on your body.
Genital Herpes has a few more symptoms you can look for. First and foremost, look for any groups of painful, itchy blisters on your genitals or even on your thighs close to that area. Some other common symptoms include pain and itching around your genitals as well as a burning sensation when you urinate.
If you're experiencing symptoms, don't be afraid to go to your doctor and get tested for herpes. While it isn't a deadly or curable disease, it's still important to take medications that help manage your outbreaks. Your doctor can also give you an excellent list of resources and remedies to try. Remember, it's always better to get tested and treated than to go untreated. Being untreated can lead your body to future medical problems. If you're pregnant and contract herpes, know that your baby will be safe and there are plenty of options available to you. During childbirth, most doctors will recommend a c-section if you are experiencing a genital herpes outbreak at the same time. If no outbreaks are present then you are good to go, though it is likely that doctors will still have you on medication.
Natural remedies to use during an outbreak
Now, if you're looking for natural remedies or cure-alls outside of the medical field, please remember that your doctor will have the best medication and treatment plans for you. I'm not a doctor but I can provide a list of natural remedies that help ease pain and other symptoms during outbreaks. Please note that the following remedies are anecdotal and haven't been clinically tested or proven.
Great topical solutions will include:
Aloe vera is a well-known topical treatment that has proven wound-accelerating properties. It can help soothe the affected area and even heal any busted blisters during an outbreak.
Long hot showers are great during a genital herpes outbreak. It's important to keep the area clean and dry. You can always try out our soap formulated for sensitive skin, that way you don't irritate that area any further. Of course, if you do experience irritation, discontinue use.
Some tips during an oral outbreak would be to load up on vitamin C and zinc supplements - especially if you are prone to high stress. You can also wear a clear hypoallergenic lip balm to protect your skin from sun and wind exposure to help that healing process go faster. You can also try other methods to lower your stress during outbreaks and in turn quicken the healing process. Calming teas and essential oils are always a wonderful go-to. Exercising to get rid of any anxious energy is also something to consider cycling classes are my personal favorite exercise options).
Remember, when dealing with a herpes outbreak, whether it be genital or oral, make sure you don't have sex, share your food or drinks, etc. While condoms and dental dams are great preventatives of all sexually transmitted diseases, it is best to use them when you aren't experiencing an outbreak.
Herpes is a common virus and I promise that you aren't alone in dealing with it. There are plenty of more resources out there to check out; I wish I could share them all in this single post, but I hope the ones on here help start you on your journey. If you have herpes, know that you shouldn't feel ashamed, nor are you dirty, you're just human. :)
In need of more resources? Check out our Instagram.