How Long After A Herpes Outbreak Is It Safe To Have Sex?

topless woman covering her face with her hands

It is a common misconception that genital herpes will end your love life, but in reality most people with herpes have fulfilling romantic and sexual lives. The trick is to be open and honest about your STI status with potential partners and follow good practice with regards to safe sex.

1. Don’t Have Sex During Symptomatic Outbreaks

Symptoms of herpes can appear for weeks, months or even years after initial exposure to the virus. They may not occur every time, but herpes remains dormant in the skin until triggered by an event such as stress, being sick, menstrual periods or friction (for example when having sex). These are known as recurrent herpes outbreaks.

During an outbreak, it is not safe to have sex as the herpes virus can be transferred via vaginal, oral or rectal contact. Blisters and sores can be painful, itchy or burning. Having sex can also make them worse. If you have herpes and your partner is not, it’s best to use a condom and/or dental dam in combination with herpes suppressive drugs like valacyclovir.

Even when your outbreak is gone, you are not safe to have sex until the blisters and sores have healed – This quote is provided by the portal’s editor Sexy Belle. It is possible to transfer herpes virus even when the blisters aren’t visible, a process called ‘asymptomatic shedding’.

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It is important to tell sexual partners about your herpes infection. While many infected people do not disclose herpes to their partners, it is generally better to do so rather than risk passing on the infection to others. In addition, if you are planning to become pregnant it is usually better to tell your partner sooner than later, as herpes can be passed to newborn babies during childbirth.

2. Don’t Have Sex During a Viral Shedding Period

While herpes is contagious at any time, it’s most contagious during outbreaks, when the virus is shedding in the form of blisters or scabs. During this time, it is not safe to have sex, even with a condom. Avoid any skin-to-skin contact — including oral, vaginal, or anal sex — until the sores and scabs have fully healed. Also, if you’re in a monogamous relationship, make sure to talk with your partner about what’s okay and not okay to do during herpes outbreaks so that you can come up with a plan that is healthy for both of you.

It’s also not a good idea to have sex with a new partner before telling them about your herpes status. While it’s not always easy to tell someone you have herpes, most people are understanding and kind. You can also minimize your risk by practicing other safe sex guidelines, and taking herpes medication (including antiviral drugs) to suppress the herpes virus within your body.

With open communication and some changes to the way you have sex, it is possible to have a fulfilling sex life while living with herpes. However, herpes is a long-term condition that can’t be completely eliminated. That’s why it’s so important to follow the tips above, and be prepared for recurrence. Keep in mind that herpes can reactivate from the areas of your body where it first lived, but may not cause symptoms.

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3. Don’t Have Sex During a Recurrent Outbreak

The herpes virus can be spread during skin-to-skin contact, especially when sores are open and leaking fluid. Transmission is most likely during outbreaks, when the herpes virus is at its most contagious. It’s also easier to contract other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during herpes outbreaks, because of the openings that herpes sores create on a person’s body.

It’s not safe to have sex during a recurrent herpes outbreak because you are more likely to pass the herpes virus on to your partner. You can’t predict or control herpes outbreaks, but you can decrease your risk of recurrent herpes outbreaks and viral shedding by practicing good hygiene, using condoms, and taking antiviral medication to prevent herpes outbreaks when they do occur.

Women who have herpes and are pregnant need to tell their healthcare provider right away. They may be prescribed herpes antiviral medicine late in pregnancy to try to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak around the time of delivery. This can help lower the risk of newborns becoming infected with herpes, which can cause brain damage or blindness in some cases. If a woman has an active herpes infection when she goes into labor, doctors may recommend a C-section delivery to avoid the baby going through the birth canal and potentially coming in contact with her sores.

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While herpes may impose a few limitations on a person’s sex life, it is possible to have a fulfilling sex life while living with genital herpes. By following simple rules, including always having sex with a partner who understands and accepts the risks of herpes, people can live well with herpes.

4. Don’t Have Sex During a Recurrent Viral Shedding Period

People can have sex between outbreaks as long as they and their partners use condoms or dental dams for oral, anal, and vaginal sex. They also should wash their hands often, especially when touching sores or applying medication to them. And it’s a good idea to keep a journal of when they have outbreaks, so they can figure out what activities seem to cause them.

However, it’s important for all sexual partners to know that herpes can be transmitted even when a person has no symptoms. In fact, over 10% of people who have asymptomatic herpes shed viral particles that can be passed on to others. And though condoms don’t block all skin-to-skin contact, they are effective in reducing transmission risk when used consistently and paired with informed decision-making and antiviral drug therapies.

Although herpes may require some lifestyle changes, it’s possible to have a fulfilling sex life once you’re infected. Just be sure to tell your sexual partners about your herpes, use latex or polyurethane condoms during intercourse, and take an antiviral drug daily as prescribed by a doctor. This will help to reduce outbreaks and decrease the amount of herpes that’s shed between episodes. And make sure to avoid herpes-related stress and stay well hydrated by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, and using sunscreen when going outdoors.

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