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Many companies produce home kits that test for herpes. These may be beneficial for those who suspect that they have herpes but are reluctant or unable to visit a doctor’s clinic.

Herpes is an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus can spread through contact with moist areas of the skin, such as the mouth and genitals.

Tests can make people aware that they have the virus, encouraging them to take steps to reduce the likelihood of it spreading to others.

The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes HSV into two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2.

HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which may develop after exposure to the virus in saliva or on skin surfaces. Many people do not experience any symptoms, and some develop the virus from nonsexual contact during their childhood. Sometimes, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes through oral sex.

HSV-2 causes genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects more than 1 in 6 people aged 14–49 years in the United States.

Some at-home tests may test for just one type of HSV, whereas others may test for both types.

This article discusses the different types of at-home herpes tests and their pros and cons. It also lists some specific products that people can try.

The CDC recommends herpes testing only for people who experience symptoms, such as blisters on and around the genitals, mouth, or rectum. One reason for this is that false-positive results are possible.

Those who have active herpes lesions can undergo a swab test. However, if the lesion is small or has started healing, there might not be enough of the virus for the test to detect. Due to this, there is a risk of a false-negative result.

People who think that they might have had exposure to HSV and want to take a test for reassurance despite a lack of symptoms will need to test for antibodies in the blood instead.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, people should wait 12–16 weeks from the time of sexual contact before taking a test. The test checks whether the body has developed antibodies for HSV-1 or HSV-2, and these may take some time to become detectable after exposure.

People who are sexually active or share needles with others may require regular testing.

Those who have a partner with herpes and do not use barrier methods such as condoms each time they engage in sexual activity should also test for herpes regularly.

The National Coalition of STD Directors states that some people may prefer ordering their at-home tests from an online provider, as they do not have to leave their home. A 2016 study notes that at-home kits may also benefit individuals who may not have access to routine healthcare.

There are two types of home tests:

Self-collection

After purchasing a test collection kit from an online provider, individuals receive all the tools they need to perform the test at home. They collect a blood sample, following the instructions in the kit, and send it back to the company or its laboratory.

Lab-based

After purchasing the test from an online provider, people receive a laboratory requisition form, which they present at a testing site. A healthcare professional takes the required sample, and the individual receives their result within a few days.

Reliability and choosing a home test

Individuals who are considering buying a home test may wish to seek advice from a pharmacist on which test is likely to be best for them. The pharmacist may also be able to show them how to collect the sample at home to prevent inaccuracies.

People looking for an at-home herpes test should consider the following before making a purchase:

  • Clear information: The company should offer all of the information that a person needs for testing, including complete and clear instructions.
  • Consultations: Some companies offer consultations for people who may wish to discuss their sexual health concerns, particularly if they receive a positive result.
  • Treatment plan: Online providers may suggest further testing or treatment, depending on the individual’s results and concerns.
  • Certified laboratories: Some companies may work with laboratories with Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim that the CLIA regulations “establish quality standards for laboratory testing.”

Many at-home herpes tests are available to purchase. Below, we look at three of the best options.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information is purely research-based.

LetsGetChecked

LetsGetChecked’s herpes home kits can test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.

People receive a collection kit with the tools they need to collect their samples at home. These include needles, a prepaid envelope, alcohol swabs, and a tube. The tests come in discreet packaging so that other people will not know what the customer has received.

People will also find an instruction video explaining how they should take their test on the company website. LetsGetChecked suggests that people take a blood sample before 9 a.m. and return it to the laboratory on the same day.

The company states that it issues the results within 2–5 days.

Individuals who receive a positive result can contact a nurse through the company, and they may suggest a treatment plan.

LetsGetChecked offers a one-time purchase for about $100, but those who require regular testing may purchase a subscription and pay less per kit.

MyLAB Box

People can order an at-home herpes test from MyLAB Box. It will consist of instructions, a specimen bag, and a prepaid return envelope.

Once they receive their collection kit, people can collect their sample using the provided instructions. They can use the prepaid envelope to send their sample to the laboratory.

People should receive their results within 2–5 days. If the test is positive, they can book a free consultation with a doctor to discuss the results and treatment options.

This at-home test only works for people who wish to test for genital herpes. The company does not offer test kits for oral herpes.

The kit costs about $80 as a stand-alone test, but the company also markets other kits that test for different infections. For example, if people also wish to test for other STIs, they can purchase the Total Box-14 Panel or Uber Box-8 Panel.

HealthLabs

HealthLabs offers lab-based at-home herpes tests. These may be the best option for people who do not have insurance.

After placing an order, customers receive a laboratory requisition form, which they need to print out and present at a laboratory. The company has 4,500 laboratory locations, and individuals should receive their test results within 2–3 business days.

HealthLabs has three herpes tests available for purchase:

  • a test for HSV-1, which costs about $50
  • a test for HSV-2, which costs about $50
  • a test for HSV-1 and HSV-2, which costs close to $80

People may also order at-home tests for other STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV, among others.

Individuals may consider the pros and cons of using an at-home herpes test before ordering their sample collection kit.

Pros

  • online consultations with a doctor or nurse
  • testing occurs at the same laboratories that doctors use
  • results within a few days
  • confidentiality guaranteed, with individuals receiving their tests in discreet packaging

Cons

  • the challenge of collecting a blood sample at home
  • the possibility of misinterpreting the test results
  • consultations may only be available if the individual receives a positive result
  • limited external laboratory options for at-home tests

People who have had contact with someone who has received a diagnosis for herpes should see a doctor.

Those who have received a positive result may also wish to consider seeking medical advice.

Even though herpes is not curable, doctors may prescribe medications to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms. This treatment may help lower the chance of the infection passing to other individuals.

At-home herpes tests may be the preferred option for people who feel uncomfortable discussing sexual health with their doctor or are unable to visit a healthcare facility.

Many companies sell at-home tests. People can compare the costs, how long it takes the companies to issue the results, and the instructions they provide for collecting the sample.

Some people may have difficulty collecting their sample at home and interpreting the results. As a result, some companies may only offer consultations to individuals who receive a positive test.

People who get a positive test result should contact a doctor to discuss treatment options or possible follow-up tests.