Reducing Your Risk of Genital Herpes
There is no cure for
Lower Your Risk of Contracting or Spreading Genital Herpes
Change your sexual practices. Change your habits. Communicate with your partner. Be informed. Prevent spreading. Talk to your doctor about the risks during pregnancy.
Abstain or refrain from sex.
- This is the most certain way to avoid contracting genital herpes.
- Have a long-term mutually monogamous (only one exclusive sexual partner) with someone who does not have genital herpes.
- If you are infected, do not have sexual contact with anyone when you have an outbreak.
Always use a condom whenever you have sex.
- It is important to know that the virus can be found on the skin in areas that are not covered by a condom, so even with protection, there is still some chance you can spread the virus to others.
- Don’t kiss other people when you have a cold sore (a blister due to HSV-1 found around your mouth).
Don’t have oral sex when you have a cold sore.
- An increasing number of genital herpes cases are caused by HSV-1.
- Talk and work with your partner to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
- Medications that prevent pregnancies, such as birth control pills, hormonal shots, spermicides, IUDs, and diaphragms do not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases.
- Recognize when you are most contagious.
- Know that you can spread the virus even if you do not have any visible sores or are not experiencing an outbreak.
- Do not touch any visible sores or blisters.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water if you do touch a sore or blister.
- Wash your hands frequently during the day even if you have not touched a sore to prevent unintentionally spreading the virus.
- Make sure not to spread the virus to other parts of your body, such as your mouth or your eyes by touching sores and then touching these uninfected areas.
Take medications, such as valacyclovir, that are approved by the FDA for use in preventing the spread of genital herpes.
- You should know that taking valacyclovir only reduces the risk of transmission by 50%.
- A better way to protect you and your partner is to take valacyclovir and use a condom.
If you are pregnant and had a previous outbreak of genital herpes, talk with your doctor about ways to prevent the baby from contracting this disease during or after birth.
Some doctors recommend the use of valacyclovir or other similar medicines during the last part of pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak at the time of delivery.
Genital herpes fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm . Accessed July 18, 2005.
Genital herpes: lifestyle tips. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) website. Available at: http://www.healthywomen.org/content.cfm?L1=3&L2=40& L3=6.5000. Accessed July 25, 2005.
Genital herpes: reducing your risk. International Herpes Alliance website. Available at: http://www.herpesalliance.org/resources_09.htm . Accessed: July 21, 2005.
Jones CA. Vertical transmission of genital herpes: prevention and treatment options. Drugs. 2009;69(4):421-434.
Last reviewed September 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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