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Top 10 “Newly Diagnosed” Herpes Questions   – with Non-Scary, Accurate Answers to Ease Your Mind.

By Miriam Spurge, Dynamiclear Support Clinic


 

1 How do I tell someone I have herpes, should I tell?
 
It’s up to you when and with who you share your HSV status, it’s really no-one else’s business unless you intend to sleep together. If you have met someone and it is looking like you may want to take it to the next level these tips on giving the talk can help you.

  • Have a positive attitude and don’t be ashamed or apologize for having herpes. It’s nothing that you need to be sorry for, you didn’t do anything wrong.
  • If it appears that herpes is not a big deal to you, it is likely that it won’t be received as being a big deal to the other person either. Your potential partner is likely to bounce off your energy and body language, so try not to act weird or embarrassed. Be calm, relaxed and at ease when you give your talk.
  • Although you should always let someone know about herpes before sleeping with them, you don’t need to tell a person straight away. It’s a good idea to wait a little while and develop a level of trust with the person before sharing this aspect of your life.
  • Don’t use the word STD, even though herpes is an STD this word just has a negative connotation to it.
  • If possible, do it face to face.
  • Be prepared with some reliable facts that are not scary or intimidating. Most people have some type of herpes, does your potential partner get cold sores or know someone who does? This could be a common ground to start from.
  • Don’t make the person feel pressured into pursuing a relationship with you, be prepared for them to need some time to think it over and respect their decision.
  • Keep in mind that down the track you may not want to pursue the relationship for your own reasons, this is just one aspect of your amazing, interesting life that you are sharing.

2 How does herpes spread?

Firstly, let’s just put it out there that you cannot catch herpes simply from sharing a toilet seat or by using your flatmate’s bath towel.

Herpes typically dies within minutes when outside of the human body and it needs several conditions to spread successfully – like heat, friction, moisture and direct contact with skin. HSV prefers mucous membranes (think the mouth, nose or genitals) and open skin (such as a cut or tear) to spread.

Herpes is generally spread by skin to skin contact with an infected area – but only if the virus is “active” at the time.

This is usually when there are symptoms but the tricky thing is that sometimes HSV can be active without you knowing or feeling any signs.

Even so, if you take some simple precautions the odds are hugely in your favor that you won’t spread herpes (approximately a 92 – 96% chance it’ll all be fine).

Some of the best things you can do to reduce transmission:

  • Have good communication with your partners
  • Avoid touching the area just before, during and right after an outbreak
  • Take supplements and medication to reduce viral activity
  • Use condoms in between outbreaks if it suits you and your partner (it will only protect the area covered by the condom)

3 Can I spread herpes to other areas of my body?

It’s possible but really really unlikely. Here’s why, once you catch herpes your body produces antibodies which help protect you from spreading that same type of HSV elsewhere on your body.

Usually the only exceptions here, which could make it slightly more possible but still unlikely, is if you have a seriously compromised immune system OR if it is the first ever “primary” outbreak and therefore your antibodies are still being built.

Simple solution. Try not to touch the sores, if you do wash your hands with soap and water soon afterwards. Soap can easily kill the virus and if you do it immediately after contact it will certainly help prevent spreading it.

4 Does this mean my partner has been unfaithful?

No, not at all. If you are in a monogamous relationship and one of you have suddenly been diagnosed with herpes it does NOT mean that either of you have been unfaithful.

Herpes can lay dormant for several years without causing symptoms, or the symptoms could have been so insignificant that they went unnoticed before now (like mild itching).

5 Is this herpes?

Bump-diddy-bump… I know it is inconvenient, and a bit nerve-wracking, but there really is only one way to know for sure.  You need to visit a Doctor and get their professional opinion.

Don’t rely on advice from strangers or online research, because herpes truly is something that needs to be diagnosed properly.

You could be worrying about something completely different to what you have built it up in your mind to be, and if it is herpes you will be able to get the correct guidance that you need.

Either way, it will give you peace of mind to know what condition you are dealing with.

If you have symptoms right now, don’t delay. Herpes is much easier to diagnose if your Doctor can see what you are worried about, and it may not reoccur for a long time after.

If you don’t have symptoms at the time of your visit a blood test can be taken, just keep in mind that it can take up to 4 months for the antibodies that these tests look for to show up. This means you could get a negative result, even if you have HSV, if you have a blood test taken too early after exposure.

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6 Can I still have a family if I decide to, would my kids be at risk?
 
Having herpes does not stop you from achieving anything in life, especially not having a family. A person with herpes can have a happy, healthy family just like anyone else.Did you know that millions and millions of people have some form of Herpes simplex virus (HSV)? Very rarely does it interfere with pregnancy or raising a family!

If a mother is having a genital outbreak at the time of childbirth naturally there’s a couple of sensible precautions that you should take to prevent it spreading. The same goes if you are man with herpes and have an uninfected pregnant partner – because it’s important not to catch any type of virus during pregnancy.

If you are a woman and already have herpes your baby will be completely protected in your womb by your amazing antibodies, if you ever happen to fall pregnant.

Whether you are a man or woman you can still conceive a baby just the same as your non-h friends, and you can still kiss and cuddle and canoodle with your kids just like you could before.

7 Are cold sores the same as genital herpes?

Yep, they are different types of the very same Herpes simplex virus (HSV).

They just prefer different locations and behave slightly differently, such as the rate at which they shed and recur.

If you have genital herpes, remember it really is just a cold sore in a different location. Any stigma or feelings of being different are not warranted.

Most people will get at least one form of Herpes simplex at some point in their lives.

8 What are the symptoms of herpes?

Possible symptoms of a first “primary” HSV outbreak:

  • headache
  • aching joints
  • tiredness
  • fever
  • tingling or pain in the legs
  • other flu-like symptoms
  • tender and swollen lymph nodes as your body mounts a powerful immune response to HSV, this can feel like little balls underneath the skin near the groin.
  • sores on or around the genitals, can include the anus
  • painful urination
  • itching
  • discharge from the vagina or penis

Cycle of an Outbreak:

The symptoms can vary from person to person, but generally:

  • Sores develop as blisters
  • These blisters break open and weep fluid, forming an ulcer
  • After weeping the blister will often form a scab or crusting, except in situations where it is very moist such as inside the vagina (inner labia). In these cases the sores will usually just close over and heal without scabbing
  • It is not uncommon for a new batch of blisters to appear a few days after the first outbreak
  • When dealing with a first “primary” outbreak it will typically last between 2-4 weeks

9 Does herpes always reoccur & what “triggers” an outbreak?

If herpes reoccurs the sores tend to heal much quicker and the symptoms are far less painful than the first outbreak.

Some people will never have another outbreak in their lives, but most people at some stage do. The average rate of recurrence is estimated to be about 4 outbreaks a year, or one every 3 months.

For some people there are things that might aggravate the virus or “trigger” an outbreak. These will vary from person to person.

Example triggers for some people are:

  • Menstruation
  • Sunlight (such as sunburnt lips activating a cold sore)
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Diet
  • Friction from sex or masturbation
  • Stress
  • Illness or disease
  • Extreme changes in temperature

10 I feel like my life is over. How can I move past this?

In the same way that you rise above any challenge in life. Accept it, forgive yourself and others, learn from it, hold your head up high and move on from the negative thinking.

Herpes does not define who you are as a person, it doesn’t make you worthless or dirty or inferior in any way – it’s having an irrational perspective of herpes and believing in negative stereotypes that makes it sometimes feel this way.

The reality is that HSV is a common, normal and occassionally contagious skin condition that most people have but don’t talk openly about for fear of being judged.

You can choose to make herpes a big deal in your life or you can choose to become empowered by it. Having herpes can make a person stronger, more compassionate, more interesting and courageous.

It really is mostly about attitude, that and having the right information and support.

 

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