Herpes Simplex viruses are sneaky. They can be spread without showing any symptoms through a process called asymptomatic shedding. Most people acquire herpes this way. In fact, over a fourth of Americans currently host at least one herpes simplex virus (of which there are two). Many experience the painful symptoms of recurrent herpes outbreaks. Herpes simplex viruses cannot be cured currently but the symptoms they cause can be treated.
Common Sense Care
Herpes lesions heal best when left alone. Picking, squeezing, or otherwise irritating a herpes lesion will damage skin and the elements it contains (blood vessels, hair follicles, nerve endings), leaving your body with a bigger mess to clean up. Herpes sores are also very contagious and can be spread to other places on your body (called autoinoculation) or to other people.
When you're experiencing an outbreak, be sure to periodically wash your hands. It's easy to touch your face or groin without realizing it, especially during sleep. It's also a good idea to abstain from sex while genital herpes lesions are present. Even while wearing a condom, the friction caused by sexual activity can damage skin and slow the progression of healing.
Not-So-Common Sense Care
Open, oozing sores increase the chances for developing a secondary infection (when a second harmful organism makes your body its home by taking advantage of a previously weakened spot on/in your body). Bacteria and other microorganisms love warm, moist areas. To prevent their growth in or around your herpes lesions, keep lesions clean and dry. For herpes lesions in your normally moist groin area, sprinkle some baby powder on them to absorb excess moisture. Be sure to wear cotton or other natural fiber-made undergarments to allow maximum air flow. Tight fitting garments and synthetic fibers trap heat and moisture, encouraging bacterial growth.
Natural Pain Relief
Most of the pain you experience from herpes lesions are the result of inflammation. Your immune system is responsible for this inflammation, causing the rush of fluids to a site of infection. Proteins and other chemicals within these fluids (from your blood) help kill bacteria and other invading organisms as well as repair damage. Unfortunately, inflammation can also cause an area to itch, burn, or ache from the pressure on nerve endings.
The chemicals in licorice, glycyrrhizin specifically, are known to have antiviral properties as well as the ability to reduce inflammation. Applied topically or consumed in tea, these compounds can alleviate the pain of inflammation and speed the healing of herpes lesions.
Zinc has also been shown to decrease the severity and frequency of herpes outbreaks. It is thought that zinc functions by inhibiting the virus's ability to reproduce. Zinc may be applied topically (usually as a zinc sulfate ointment) or taken as part of a supplement.