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Herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection. When it flares up, several medications can ease the symptoms, and some are available to buy online.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 people in the United States has a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

This article looks into herpes treatments and home care techniques and when to consider testing.

Herpes is a common STI, and it can pass on through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. There are two types of the virus that causes it: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2).

Oral herpes often stems from an HSV-1 infection, and it can cause blisters or sores to form on or around the mouth. An HSV-2 infection often causes blisters and sores to form on or around the genitals. Many people with herpes have no symptoms, however.

The virus cannot pass from person to person via shared toilets, bedding, swimming pools, or surfaces, such as countertops or doorknobs.

There is no cure for herpes, but people should seek professional advice if they think they may have it.

Anyone who has had oral, anal, or vaginal sex with someone who has herpes — without using a barrier method of protection, such as a condom — should contact a doctor. This is also a good idea if any herpes symptoms arise.

Herpes can cause blisters to form on or around the mouth or genitals. These blisters then break, forming open, painful sores that may take at least 1 week to heal.

The symptoms may clear up on their own, and they may reappear later, in what some people call “outbreaks” or “flare ups.”

Once the virus enters the body, it never completely goes away. Some triggers that can cause herpes symptoms to reappear include:

  • UV light
  • smoke from tobacco products
  • alcohol
  • stress
  • illness
  • friction in the genital area
  • a weakened immune system
  • a menstrual period

Doctors may prescribe one of the following antiviral medications to help manage herpes symptoms. A person can also take some steps at home to ease the symptoms, and we describe these later in the article.

Please note, the writer has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

Acyclovir

Acyclovir (brand-name Zovirax) usually comes as an oral tablet, but it is also available as a cream and a drinkable liquid.

This is usually the first treatment for herpes. Doctors mainly prescribe it for genital herpes, but they also do so for cold sores, chickenpox, and shingles, which result from an infection with the herpes virus.

A person should begin the treatment as soon as they display any symptoms and continue to use it for as long as their doctor recommends.

The best dosage varies from person to person, but expect to take it two to five times a day, as the doctor instructs.

It is important to wash the hands thoroughly before applying the cream version to the affected area.

Some side effects of this medication include:

The doctor will ask about any kidney conditions or allergies to ingredients in the medication before prescribing it. It may also be unsuitable for people trying to conceive or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Acyclovir is available from the online pharmacies Blink Health and Lemonaid.

Learn more about acyclovir here.

Famciclovir

Famciclovir (brand-name Famvir) comes as tablets, and it can treat initial and recurring oral and genital herpes flare ups, as well as shingles.

The dosage varies, but people generally take the tablets two or three times a day. Doctors usually prescribe this medication for short-term use, but it is crucial to follow the doctor’s specific instructions.

The most common side effects are headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.

Famciclovir is available to order from the online pharmacy Blink Health and as a cold sore treatment from Lemonaid.

Valacyclovir

Valacyclovir (brand-name Valtrex) comes as tablets. A person usually takes one tablet twice a day.

Doctors usually prescribe this for short-term use, though some people take it in the long term. It is a good idea to discuss the treatment duration with the doctor.

Some common side effects of this medication include:

Valacyclovir is available to order online from the Blink Health pharmacy.

Home care techniques

A person can take some steps at home to ease herpes symptoms, but contact a doctor if these strategies are ineffective.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service recommends:

  • cleaning the sores and blisters with clean water or saltwater to prevent infection
  • applying an ice pack in a towel to the area to soothe any pain
  • applying petroleum jelly to genital blisters before urinating
  • keeping a pitcher near the toilet and pouring clean water over the genitals while urinating to reduce pain

Find more home remedies for herpes here.

Researchers recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing and underwear and taking pain relief medications if blisters become painful. They also warn that using antiviral creams may increase the risk of viral resistance.

Consult a doctor about any of the following symptoms:

  • blisters that burst, leaving red, open sores in the genital area or anus, or around the thighs, bottom, or mouth
  • tingling or itching around the genitals
  • pain when peeing
  • unusual vaginal discharge

It is also a good idea to contact a healthcare professional after having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has genital herpes if a barrier method of protection was not used.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the risk of the herpes virus passing to a newborn during childbirth. Although this is rare, people who are pregnant and have herpes should let their doctors know.

Using a condom or another barrier method of protection during sex reduces the risk of the virus transmitting. It is also a good idea to avoid sharing sex toys with someone who has herpes.

Several online companies offer STI testing kits, including:

  • EverlyWell: This company sells tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and HIV.
  • LetsGetChecked: This company sells tests for several common STIs, and it provides prescriptions at no extra cost if a test result is positive.
  • PriortitySTD: This company returns results within 3 days.

Anyone with a positive test result should contact a healthcare professional.

Learn more about at-home STI tests here.

There is no cure for herpes, but various treatments and home care techniques can manage the symptoms.

Antiviral medications for herpes are available by prescription, and some online pharmacies offer them.