How Herpes Is Treated

December 13, 2018

Oral herpes, normally caused by HSV type 1, and genital herpes, usually caused by HSV type 2, are equally treatable infections, but they are not curable. Home remedies, over-the-counter medications, and other choices can help alleviate the pain and distress. Prescription medications and one over-the-counter antiviral medication can lessen the severity and duration of outbreaks.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

There are some things that you can do at home to reduce the pain of a cold sore or genital herpes. Also, you might even have a few steps to prevent the lesions from becoming worse and spreading or a disease from recurring. 

  • Apply cold compresses: Place a well-insulated ice pack in your own lesions for as long as it makes you feel better. The cold won’t worsen or improve the lesion, but it can decrease the pain. 
  • Don’t scratch: it’s crucial to avoid scratching and touching lesions caused by herpes, because you can spread the infection to other regions of your skin. 
  • Maintain the sores clean: Cold sores and genital herpes infections can become infected with bacteria from the hands or, in the latter scenario, from feces or urine. It’s crucial to keep the area of blisters and sores dry and clean to prevent an extra disease. 
  • Reduce stress: Stress can interfere with optimal immune system function. Reducing your stress might help prevent excessive herpes recurrences. 

    And remember: If you already know that you have HSV-1 or HSV-2, take precautions to avoid infecting others by preventing skin-to-skin contact and 

    Over-the-Counter Therapies

    Over-the-counter antiviral treatment creams can help accelerate recovery from genital or oral herpes infections, and other options can help alleviate discomfort.

    A few to consider include:

    • Abreva (docosanol): This really is the sole FDA-approved antiviral medication for herpes infection which you can get without a prescription. Antiviral medications inhibit the ability of a virus to multiply in the body, but they do not completely destroy or remove the virus.  This medicine comes as a cream that you apply directly to the affected area about every few hours. Take care to just apply it to skin, not inside your mouth, eyes, or vagina. Wash your hands before and after use.
    • Pain-relieving lotions and creams: Medicated pain creams or lotions can alleviate discomfort associated with sores. There are a number of over-the-counter selections available. Be sure to confirm with your doctor or pharmacist that the product you select is safe to use on herpes lesions, and scrub your hands before and after you apply some other product.
    • Oral pain relievers: Oral drugs such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil (ibuprofen), and Aleve (naproxen) can help alleviate herpes-related pain for several hours. 


    There are lots of situations when prescription antiviral drugs is advocated, and nearly all apply to instances of genital herpes infection. The prescriptions taken for herpes infection are all antiviral medications, and, like the over-the-counter antibacterial cream Abrevathey inhibit proliferation of the virus, but they don’t rid the body of it.

    If you’ve got a first installment or a recurrence, a short course of a few of the three options available is suggested. Those with regular episodes may want to take one of these drugs daily on a continuous basis, which can be known as suppressive treatment. Taking herpes medication when you do not have symptoms has been shown to reduce the possibility of sexual transmission to a spouse.

    The following recommendations for adults with genital herpes are in the​ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) herpes treatment plans, but your health care provider will determine which of those options is ideal for you. 

    Medication Initial Outbreak Remedy Recurrent Outbreak Prevention Recurrent Outbreak Remedy
    Zovirax, Sitavig (acyclovir) 400mg three times a day for seven to 10 times –OR– 200mg five times per day for the same duration* 400mg twice per day 400mg three times a day for five day –OR– 800mg twice a day for five days –OR– 800mg three times a day for two times
    Famvir (famciclovir)  250mg three times a day for seven to 10 days* 250mg twice a day 125mg twice a day for 5 days –OR– 1g twice a day for one day –OR– 500mg after, followed by 250mg twice a day for two days
    Valtrex (valacyclovir)  1g twice a day for seven to 10 times * 500mg or 1g daily 500mg twice a day for 3 days –OR– 1g once a day for five days

    *When symptoms remain after 10 weeks, your physician might decide to continue treatment.

    Normally, treatment of cold sores isn’t needed unless the signs are persistent and severe, in which case acyclovir is generally utilized.

    Generally, prescription antivirals are not suggested for pregnant women or for babies under the age of a person. They might be used for children under the age of 12 and the suggested dose is calculated by a doctor according to weight.

    Complementary Medicine (CAM)

    Alternative therapies for herpes with some encouraging research include:

    • Propolis: A sticky substance that bees produce from tree saps, propolis shows promise in the treatment of herpes. Studies have found that individuals who are treated with propolis experience quicker healing of herpes lesions and a greater likelihood of fully healed lesions by day 10 of treatment when compared to individuals who get placebo.
    • Algae extract: In a lab setting, algae extract was proven to inhibit HSV-2 development, so this might be a regarded as a useful component in other treatments in the future. 
    • Acupuncture: Acupuncture was used for treating pain brought on by herpes lesions with some beneficial results. This therapy method, while mildly helpful, has also rarely been associated with transmission of HSV, therefore it is ideal to consider it with caution. 

    Several other alternative options have been researched for the treatment or suppression of genital herpes, such as lysine, zinc, Echinacea, eleuthero, and bee products. There’s no evidence to prove that some of these options are beneficial for these purposes.

    A recently promoted alternative therapy for herpes, Resolve Herpes is also said to feature minerals and is promoted as a detox therapy. So far, there does not seem to be evidence that this item can cure or treat herpes infections.