How To Look After A Herpes Outbreak

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It’s a tricky time when you’re a card-holding member of HSV and you feel that familiar ‘glittery’ feeling which indicates a herpes outbreak. Honestly, it can be a real day-wrecker. I once had a herpes outbreak on the night of a big event at which I was interning. I had to network with important members of the English heritage community! But having an outbreak doesn’t have to be a big deal, especially when you’re looking after yourself properly.

So whether you’re in the midst of your first or your fifth outbreak, here is a little self-care checklist for how to look after a herpes outbreak and get you through the next few days. 

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Herpes outbreaks are usually triggered when your immune system is low which allows the virus to come out of its dormant state. Because of this, when looking after yourself during an outbreak, it’s important to focus on things that boost your immune system, rather than anything that might ‘cure’ the sores. When I had my first herpes outbreak, I had been super stressed which triggered mine, so I made sure to take care of my stress levels going forward, and tried to listen to my body when I was burning myself out too much. 

The things on this herpes outbreak checklist might seem obvious (trust me, I know!) but sometimes it helps to work through the basics. It’s a good reminder that the most effective things for how to look after a herpes outbreak don’t have to be the most complicated, or expensive! 

Antivirals 

This is probably the most obvious one of all, but the most important! Whenever you’re having an outbreak, make sure to take your antivirals. They might not be able to cure you but they do help to slash the rate of transmission and they really help to speed up the healing process so that you hopefully won’t be in as much pain for as long! 

Illustration of Acyclovir, an antiviral.

Drink water

Keep hydrated! Drinking plenty of water is not only essential regardless of your herpes status, but it also helps with your outbreak. Especially when the sores haven’t healed over yet, making sure that you’re super hydrated will mean that your pee is diluted and shouldn’t sting as much when you go to the bathroom! A trick that really saved my life was taking a bottle of water with me when I needed to pee and pouring it over my outbreak site to further help with dilution and prevent stinging. 

Get sleep 

Sleep aids in your healing more than you know! Not only does a lack of sleep lower your immune system (often triggering outbreaks), but your body also heals itself whilst you’re asleep. This means that it gives your body time to rest and restore. Sleep will really help speed up the healing process and you’ll also feel well-rested — so win-win! 

Illustration of a Herpes Outbreak Checklist

Eat well 

Good food packed with veggies will make you feel better and will also aid in healing your outbreak. Comfort food is also allowed — herpes outbreaks are no fun and no one here will judge if you indulge yourself! But a good diet with lots of water is the key to supporting your immune system which will have taken a battering during your outbreak. 

Don’t isolate yourself

It might be tempting to cancel all your plans and stay home to wallow, but resist it! Whether you’re reading this during COVID or post-COVID, my advice here is still relevant. Call your friend or Zoom them if you can! Have a laugh and take your mind off your outbreak for an hour or so. Laughter is an immune booster so use it to your advantage. 

Other Things To Watch Out For!

There are people who want to profit off your herpes outbreak. It is a common misconception that things like lysine and lemon balm are good treatments for herpes outbreaks. This is simply not supported by any substantial medical evidence. From a 2015 study, it was confirmed that lysine did not help to prevent HSV sores. Likewise, lemon balm has been suggested to shorten the healing time of sores if applied early in the infection process. Keep in mind that there are very few clinical trials to prove this method of treating HSV. 

Image of the key things to manage a herpes outbreak: drink water, eat right, get sleep and take your antivirals.

I understand feeling desperate and willing to try anything to make herpes disappear, but the truth of the matter is that nothing will work better than antivirals and sleep to treat an outbreak. Don’t waste your money on anything which claims to cure or even prevent herpes. 

I hope this checklist for how to look after a herpes outbreak helps. It’s important to remember the basics, especially if your outbreak has snuck up on you. Take it slow and be kind to yourself and your body. Your immune system only needs the basics to bounce back: good food, water, sleep, and antivirals. 

You got this, babe.


About The Author

Based in the UK, Darcy Rae (@dxrcyer on Instagram) is a BA and Masters by Research graduate in History specializing in medical history. Her work focuses on violence on the body, the evolution of public views on anatomy, and corporeal metaphors through time. This also includes the presentation of the female body and the expectations of female dignity before public execution. Darcy is also a self-taught digital illustrator; this fascination with anatomy is also found in her work which combines messages of body positivity and female empowerment.

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