Living with herpes can be challenging, but there are tips to make it easier. Getting medical help and committing to some behavior changes may have beneficial effects on outbreak frequency. The disease also offers people the opportunity to act ethically toward others to protect them from this highly contagious virus.
One of the things that concerns most people living with herpes is the number of outbreaks, since these can uncomfortable, embarrassing (if a person has cold sores), and they are the times when it is mostly likely the virus will be passed to other people. Frequency of outbreaks is often highest during the early years after catching the virus. During these years, getting medical attention helps.
A number of prescription antiviral medications treat oral or genital herpes. These can be taken for six months, a year, or longer, and they making living with herpes easier by reducing the number of outbreaks. Generally, people discontinue these medications once active periods of the illness have been reduced. Some patients only take these medicines when they have an active infection, and this often shortens duration of the outbreak, alleviating its symptoms sooner.
It’s also known that herpes outbreaks tend to occur more frequently when people are in poor physical health or experiencing high levels of stress. This suggests anyone living with herpes should commit to a lifestyle that emphasizes healthy diet and exercise. Working with a doctor to alleviate or treat other physical conditions is also advised.
Chronic high stress levels may increase the number of herpes outbreaks. Not all stress in life can be avoided, but people might consider learning stress reduction techniques. They could pursue therapy or use self-help materials to deal with strong stressors or find ways to simplify overly challenging living strategies. These measures may help keep outbreaks to a minimum.
The second part of living with herpes is recognition that a person has a chronic, contagious illness, and this means they now have the ethical responsibility to protect other people. Most people would gladly not have herpes, and while they can’t simply get rid of it, they hold the power to offer that choice to other people. Those with this illness are strongly advised to disclose information about their illness to any potential partners, prior to any sexually based activity. Failure to do this recklessly disregards the health of any partner.
Some people mistakenly believe they don’t need to tell partners unless they have an outbreak. The illness can be contagious at all times, so the absence of an outbreak doesn’t guarantee a partner's safety. People living with herpes are also advised to use barrier methods of birth control when they engage in sexual activity of any type, and to completely avoid sex during active periods of the illness. These may be inconveniences, but they protect other people, minimizing spread of this disease. Ultimately, responsibly and ethically living with herpes may help other people live without it.