As a teen, what should I know about genital herpes?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
There are several strains of herpes simplex virus but by far the most common strains are called Type 1 and Type 2. We are always learning new things about these viruses. It’s not always the case but in general Herpes Type 1 virus tends to live in the lips, mouth, and surrounding skin. Herpes Type 2 virus almost always lives in the genital tract, the vagina and surrounding labia (lips) in a woman and the penis and scrotum (balls) in a man.
These viruses are very common in the population and are spread from one person to another by touching or “intimate contact.” This means the skin of the person who has the virus touches the particular area of skin of the person who then catches the virus. In the case of genital herpes this comes from having sex with the penis in the vagina, but also from simply touching genitals to genitals. Oral sex can also allow the virus to spread.
The symptoms caused by the virus can be very mild to very severe. There is usually a blister-like sore and redness on the skin. There may be clusters of blisters. These are very sore. There may also be a general sort of sick feeling with muscle aches and tiredness. The lymph glands near the blisters may be swollen. The symptoms, if untreated, usually go away in 7 to 10 days. There are oral tablets that can be used to make the symptoms go away more quickly. You need a prescription from your health care provider for these tablets.
When a person has an active blister, the person is the most contagious but the virus can also be spread even when there isn’t a blister present.  The best ways to avoid spreading or catching the virus is to not touch active blisters as in kissing or having sex. Using condoms for sex reduces the risk of spreading the virus.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.