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Several companies now produce at-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.

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

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Herpes is an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus spreads 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 passing it 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, which is 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend herpes testing only for people who experience symptoms. These may include 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 also a risk of a false-negative result.

People who think that they might have had exposure to HSV and who 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 or not 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 who share needles with others may require regular testing.

Individuals who have partners with herpes and who 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 to order their at-home tests from online providers since this does not require them to leave their homes.

A 2020 study notes that at-home kits may also benefit those who may not have access to routine healthcare.

There are two types of home tests: self-collection and laboratory-based.

Self-collection

After purchasing a test collection kit from an online provider, an individual receives 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 for analysis.

Laboratory-based

After purchasing the test from an online provider, the person receives 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.

People 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 who are 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 clear and complete 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 work with laboratories with Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. The CDC claims that the CLIA regulations “establish quality standards for laboratory testing.”

Many at-home herpes tests are available to purchase online. The sections below look at four of the best options.

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

LetsGetChecked

Best subscription for herpes test

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

A person receives a collection kit with all 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 person has received.

The person also has access to an instruction video on the company website that explains how they should take their test. 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 anyone who requires regular testing can purchase a subscription and pay less per kit.

Learn more about LetsGetChecked here.

Everlywell

Best general STI test for herpes

Everlywell offers STI test panels for males and females.

This company offers two STI tests: one for males and one for females. Both tests require a finger prick blood sample. The test for females also requires a vaginal swab, and the test for males also requires a urine sample.

This test screens for the following STIs:

Once a person has purchased a test, they need to register it on Everlywell’s website. They then need to post the collected samples with prepaid shipping.

Everlywell states that people will receive their test results within days of posting the samples. However, customer reviews on the company’s website say that several people had to wait up to 2 weeks to receive their results.

The person receives digital and printable results. If they test positive for any of the STIs, they can connect with Everlywell’s network of independent physicians for advice and treatment.

This test costs around $150. However, people can subscribe for twice-yearly tests and save money per kit.

MyLAB Box

Best convenient herpes test

People can order at-home herpes tests from MyLAB Box. These kits consist of instructions, a specimen bag, and a prepaid return envelope.

Once a person receives their collection kit, they can collect their sample using the provided instructions. They can then 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 their results and treatment options. The doctor may prescribe treatment following the consultation.

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 standalone test, but the company also markets other kits that test for different infections. For example, if a person also wishes to test for other STIs, they can purchase the Total Box – 14 Panel option or the Uber Box – 8 Panel option.

HealthLabs

Best affordable herpes test

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

After placing an order, the person receives 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 about $80

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

Learn more about HealthLabs here.

People should consider the pros and cons of using at-home herpes tests before ordering a sample collection kit. Below are some pros and cons associated with at-home tests.

Anyone who has come into contact with someone who has received a diagnosis for herpes should contact a doctor as soon as possible.

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

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

Below are some frequently asked questions about at-home herpes tests.

How common is herpes?

The CDC states that more than 1 in 6 people in the U.S. aged 14–49 years have genital herpes.

Herpes spreads through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. People can reduce the risk of transmitting herpes to another person by using condoms or dental dams during sex and avoiding having sex when they are experiencing an outbreak of herpes.

When should a person test for herpes?

The CDC recommends that only people who have symptoms of herpes undergo testing. Possible symptoms include blisters around the anus, genitals, or mouth that burst and leave painful sores.

The CDC also recommends testing if a person experiences what could be a herpes outbreak.

How can people test for herpes?

A person can ask for a herpes test at any sexual health clinic or at their doctor’s surgery. A healthcare professional will either swab a blister or draw a blood sample.

At-home herpes tests often require a blood sample through a finger prick.

Once a person receives their test results, they should contact a doctor to discuss treatment options, if necessary.

Learn more about medications for herpes here.

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

Many companies sell at-home tests. Before purchasing a test, an individual may wish to 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 samples at home and interpreting the test results. Also, some companies may only offer consultations to individuals who receive a positive test.

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