In the offseason, more and more people get suffering from the characteristic rash on the lips that is accompanied by itch. It is not just a symptom of a cold or some other respiratory or viral diseases, it is a separate disease that is not at all mysterious. It is called herpes and can develop not only on your lips. As all of us are prone to it, you should definitely learn as much as possible about herpes symptoms and ways to overcome and prevent it. And you are on the website that will be your best help in getting all the necessary information. Our comprehensive approach to the topic will fill all gaps in your knowledge about herpes.
Herodotus wrote about herpes and gave it its present name that derived from the Greek word “herpein” – to crawl - because of the ability of herpes ulcers to spread from the primary vesicle on the skin. For many centuries herpes disease has gathered many myths. So let us explain which of them are true and which are lies.
Myth 1: Herpes is not contagious, or Can you get herpes from kissing?
So you wonder: can you get herpes from kissing? Yes, you can. Herpes is one of airborne transmitted infections, that means it can be caught if you are near a coughing, sneezing, or talking infected person. Also herpes is transmittable through contact (kissing, use of common utensils, lipstick, cigarette) and through sexual intercourse. This infection is also transmittable from mother having female vaginal herpes to a baby during delivery, as the baby touches the infected parts. Typically, this happens if the mother is infected with genital herpes in the third trimester of pregnancy, so her body does lacks time to start developing antibodies to be transmitted the child. And if damage of the placenta happens, the baby can be infected during the uterine period of development - this is called congenital herpes.
Myth 2: The answer to “How do you get herpes?” is that you only can be infected in the presence of rash
So then you ask yourself when and how do you get herpes? Obviously, in the active phase of the disease greater amount of virus particles is transmitted and the probability of infection is higher. But the transmission can occur at all disease stages, including the herpes incubation period when symptoms are mild or even absent through invisible skin and mucous membranes microtrauma.
Myth 3: Herpes is a manifestation of common cold
As we explained, herpes is a separate disease the cause of which is herpes simplex virus. This problem can be activated by respiratory diseases or exacerbation of chronic diseases, stresses, fatigue, or reduced overall immunity. So if you get the rash, it does not mean your cold caused it, it means there are problems with your organism that weakened your immune system and thus gave the opportunity to the herpes virus to be active.
Myth 4: The best herpes cure is cauterization of the sores with alcohol, iodine or other home remedies for herpes
Unfortunately no. Cauterization with any home remedies for herpes, such as toothpaste, iodine, or celandine juice, has no effect on the herpes virus and its activity, but you can easily burn and damage your skin and mucous membranes trying this or that herpes cure. Such herpes treatment method can lead to bad scars on your lips and face, so be careful and do not risk your appearance: it is better to be patient than to fight the consequences of ill-considerate treatment. It is better to gently lubricate rash with an antiseptic that does not contain alcohol to prevent purulent infection. Exacerbation of herpes should be treated with specific antiviral drugs that suppress the herpes virus. If you suffer from frequent exacerbations, you should consider using drugs stimulating your immune system.
Myth 5: If herpes symptoms have passed, herpes is cured
It would be great, but unfortunately, removing the virus from the body is impossible, only herpes symptoms are curable. The virus itself stays with a person for life, and living with herpes we can only get it to remain in hibernation state. Therefore, 95% of people have the herpes virus, with most of us gaining it at the age of 3-4 years, but it manifests itself in only about 20% of people. If you wonder how long does it take for herpes to show up, the answer is that you can live all your life and never have the disease activated if your immune system is strong, but most often the manifestation of the disease occurs when your immune strength is at its lowest.
Myth 6: Labial herpes and genital one are two completely different diseases
This statement is only partially true. This disease is caused by herpes simplex virus infection which has many types. Most wide-spread of them are:
- type 1, or oral herpes, or herpes labialis – as we can see from its name, it affects your mouth: most often you can notice characteristic blisters, also called cold sores, on lip, but it also can appear on tongue or in your nose;
- and type 2, or genital herpes, is a sexually transmitted disease that affects the area of genitalia. You probably have a question “can you have genital herpes and not know it?” Well, in case if you are infected (and if you have any sexual experience, you can never be certain you are not), you will most likely notice it because of the itching and cold sores that are especially noticeable if you remove your pubic hair. But some patients, mostly women, can have very mild manifestation of the disease and the latter escapes their attention.
Herpes simplex is often confused with herpes zoster, but the latter is caused by another virus: VZV, or varicella zoster virus.
Myth 7: Condoms are a complete protection against genital herpes infection
A condom does reduce the risk of infection with female and male genital herpes, so its use is necessary in the period of exacerbation of the disease and in the presence of inflammation on the mucous membranes and the skin of the genitals. But, unfortunately, it does not an absolute guarantee. The virus can easily be transmitted through the parts of the body that are not covered by the condom or through oral sex. Therefore, it is better to abstain from sexual activity as far as possible during the exacerbation of the disease.
Myth 8: Living with herpes is safe as it only affects the skin
No and no. After infection herpes simplex virus gets integrated into the nerve cells genome, therefore, rash can occur in any nerve endings and is usually accompanied by severe itch and pain. Any area having nerve tissue can be a place of herpes appearance. If your general and local immunity weakens, herpetic inflammation can develop in cornea and conjunctiva of the eyes causing ocular herpes, in the lymph nodes, in nails causing whitlow, in internal organs, such as uterus, lungs, kidneys, intestines, and even in the central nervous system, causing brain damage and leading to death or disability.
In addition, congenital herpes multiplies the likeability of development defects in the fetus. Moreover, if symptoms of herpes in men are neglected and the disease is advanced, it significantly increases the risk of prostate cancer in men; and to avoid cervical cancer it is better to consult a specialist after the very first signs of herpes in women.
Myth 9: how do you get herpes
Test yourself. You have nothing to worry about if cold sores appear on your lips or in your nose only and no more than 4-5 times a year. This is indeed frustrating, but you most probably have no systemic disorders in your body functions. You only have to find your best way to jugulate the disease and stop the outbreak symptoms fast. Specific anti-herpes ointments, pills and creams that can be found at any pharmacy will be a saving grace for you. Or you also can try any home cure for herpes such as cauterization with iodine or toothpaste, but be extremely careful and run an allergy test first: you don’t want any scars, right?
But if exacerbations occur more often than 5 times a year, and rashes appear not only on your lips, but also in other areas of the body, be sure to undergo immunological examination. Frequent recurrences of herpes in elderly people may indicate the development of neoplastic processes involving immunodeficiency.
Memo to the Patient
- Avoid kissing, oral sex and intercourse during the outbreak of the disease. Do not despair: in remission of the disease you can safely indulge in the pleasures of love;
- For the period of your disease avoid sharing any personal hygiene items, including towels, kitchen utensils and diches and any other objects that can carry the infection.
- Avoid visiting swimming pools and saunas as water steam is an easy way of infection transmission.
- Better apply any creams or other remedies with cotton swabs instead of your fingers.