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Genital Herpes Signs & Symptoms

What is Genital Herpes?

The herpes simplex virus (HSV for short) causes genital herpes, there are two types (HSV1 AND HSV2). It is the same type of virus as a cold sore, however, a cold sore is not a sexually transmitted infection.

How does it spread?

Herpes is passed during sexual contact, usually before, during or straight after an outbreak (an outbreak is when there are blisters or sores visible).

It can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex – as well as close skin to skin contact of the genital area. You can also get a type of herpes virus in your finger; this is called whitlow. If you have this and touch someone’s genital area, you could give them genital herpes.

*important information*

It is said that over 60% of the population will have a cold sore at one point in their life. If you have a cold sore or are about to get one – and you perform oral sex on someone, you can pass on genital herpes. Same if someone has genital herpes and you perform oral sex, you can get a severe cold sore!

Signs and Symptoms

Some people might contract herpes and never display any symptoms. If you catch herpes and it can take weeks, or months for any symptoms to show. Symptoms may include:

  • Tingling or itching sensation in the infected area before the blisters appear.

  • Small blisters on or around your genital area, that burst and leave painful sores.

  • Pain while peeing

  • Flu-like symptoms

These symptoms will go away on their own, however, the virus will still be in your body – just dormant. The virus can them come back or ‘flare up’ and there are many factors that are said to contribute to this.

  • Smoking

  • Drinking

  • Ultraviolent light – so sun exposure or sunbeds

  • Being unwell

  • Stress

  • Hormones (so during your menstrual cycle)

  • Friction to the area

Some people say certain foods can cause flare-ups, and some say certain vitamins help protect against cold sores and genital herpes such as lysine and vitamin C.


There is no cure for herpes, but there is a treatment to help reduce the time you have an outbreak for, and the severity of it.

If you take antiviral medicine, it can shorten the outbreak by 1 or 2 days but only if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.

If you have herpes, use a condom every time you have sex, however, it’s important to note that the virus can still be passed on if the condom does not cover the infected area.

It’s so important if you are ever treated for an STI that you tell your current or previous sexual partners so they can get a checkup and treatment too if needed.

Useful sites and further reading

You can find out more about sexual health and STIs on our website



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