Managing recurrences of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections involves both medical treatments and lifestyle modifications. Here are some strategies for managing HSV recurrences:
- Antiviral Medications: Prescription antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and famciclovir (Famvir) can help reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of HSV outbreaks. These medications work best when taken at the first sign of an outbreak or as a preventative measure if you know a trigger is likely to cause an outbreak.
- Avoid Triggers: Identify and avoid triggers that can prompt HSV outbreaks. Common triggers include stress, illness, fatigue, hormonal changes (such as menstruation), certain foods (such as nuts and chocolate for some individuals), exposure to sunlight, and sexual activity.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can strengthen your immune system and reduce the likelihood of HSV outbreaks. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress through relaxation techniques or therapy, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Practice Safe Sex: If you have genital herpes, using condoms during sexual activity can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to your partner. However, since HSV can be spread even when no symptoms are present (asymptomatic shedding), it’s important to have open and honest communication with sexual partners about your HSV status.
- Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter creams containing docosanol (Abreva) can help reduce the severity and duration of cold sore outbreaks when applied at the first sign of symptoms.
- Keep the Affected Area Clean and Dry: Keeping the affected area clean and dry can help prevent secondary infections and promote healing. Avoid touching the sores and wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with them to prevent spreading the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.
- Support Groups and Counseling: Living with recurrent HSV outbreaks can be emotionally challenging. Support groups or counseling can provide emotional support, education, and coping strategies for managing the psychological impact of the condition.
- Consult with a Healthcare Professional: If you experience frequent or severe HSV outbreaks despite following these measures, consult with a healthcare professional. They may recommend additional treatment options or investigate underlying factors contributing to your recurrent outbreaks.
Remember, while there is no cure for HSV, effective management strategies can help reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks, as well as alleviate symptoms.