Herpes is a virus that causes sores in humans. There are two types of herpes: herpes simplex virus 1, which causes sores on the mouth, and herpes simplex virus 2, which causes sores on the genitals.
Herpes is very common. One in four women and one in five men have genital herpes. Oral herpes is even more common. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes, although careful management can reduce or eliminate outbreaks.
The best way to prevent a herpes outbreak is to avoid herpes in the first place. Helpful herpes-avoidance strategies:
- Avoid contact with people who have herpes. Herpes is contagious even when sores are not present.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have. Some people have herpes, but are asymptomatic and do not even know they have the virus. The best way to avoid herpes is to limit your exposure by limiting your sexual partners.
- Do not share things that touch your mouth, like drinking glasses, straws, or lipstick.
- Always practice safe sex. Herpes is spread by touching the affected area, not by bodily fluids. For this reason, a condom will not always protect you from herpes since it does not cover the entire genital area. However, a condom does provide some protection against herpes, and good protection against many other sexually transmitted infections.
If You Already Have Herpes
If you already have herpes, it's not too late. If you keep your immune system healthy, your outbreaks will diminish in frequency and severity. Tips for a healthy immune system:
- Get enough rest. It is important to get plenty of rest, most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet. Make sure your diet includes enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon and olive oil, are also very beneficial. Try to avoid fatty foods, processed foods, and foods with lots of calories and sugar but no nutrients.
- Exercise regularly. 30 minutes of exercise three days per week is the bare minimum. Regular exercise stimulates the immune system and improves overall health. Jogging, walking, bicycling, and swimming are all easy activities that most people can do.
- Avoid excess stress. Many people report that when they are very stressed out, they often have a herpes outbreak. This is because too much stress depresses the immune system. You should try to eliminate large sources of stress from your life. If you cannot eliminate enough stress, you should develop techniques for dealing with stress such as breathing exercises, fun hobbies, or biofeedback.
There are many medications available to suppress herpes outbreaks. However, many have unpleasant side effects that you may not want to deal with. Talk to your health practitioner about medications before taking them.