One of the top concerns for those afflicted with the herpes virus is how to prevent transmission of the disease. The good news is, while it is true that no cure currently exists for herpes, it is also true that the disease can be managed, and that active steps can be taken toward herpes prevention.
Education is the key to herpes prevention. By understanding what herpes is, when it is contagious, and how it can be spread, you can better prevent your loved ones from contracting the disease. Empower yourself with knowledge. Your first step is making a conscious effort toward awareness.
Herpes prevention begins with a recognition of symptoms ( Folliculitis or Herpes ), followed by a reliable diagnosis. It is when symptoms are ignored and infected persons deny themselves the understanding and treatment options that accompany a diagnosis that herpes is spread.
The Role of Medication
In the meantime of a cure being sought for herpes, certain anti-viral medications and non-prescription products are available to both treat herpes and assist in herpes prevention. These herpes treatments are known to decrease herpes outbreaks and so, when used in conjunction with certain behavior modification, can be a boost in herpes prevention.
Herpes Prevention Depends on Symptom Awareness
The herpes virus is spread during skin-to-skin contact with an infected person who is actively shedding the virus. For herpes prevention it is vital, then, for persons with herpes to be vigilant in recognizing flare-ups, even slight symptoms, so that their loved ones can avoid direct skin contact with them during viral shedding.
Complicating herpes prevention is the tendency for the virus to shed without the telltale physical symptoms. This phenomenon, known as asymptomatic shedding, means it is possible to have entered a phase of contagiousness without knowing it. Certain anti-viral medications can significantly reduce asymptomatic shedding. To be on the safe side, however, you should note the below examples of precautionary measures that can be taken to support herpes prevention.
Common Sense Behavior Assists Herpes Prevention
Adhering to one or more of the following common-sense choices can be advantageous toward herpes prevention:
- Periodic Abstinence—During your partner’s active herpes outbreak, do not engage in sexual intercourse, perform oral sex, or make any skin-on-skin contact with his or her affected areas.
- Use Condoms—Wearing a latex condom (or, for those with latex allergies, a polyurethane condom) during vaginal, oral, or anal sex is paramount for herpes prevention. Lambskin condoms are porous, allow the virus to pass through them, and should not be used. (Please note that condoms do not protect the scrotum.) Similarly, a woman can use a female condom, a “dental dam,” or even cover the vaginal or clitoral area with plastic wrap for herpes prevention. A broken condom should never be used.
- Use Proper Lubrication—Lubrication diminishes condom-breaking friction, provided the lubricant is meant for sexual use (petroleum jelly, oils, and other lotions contribute to latex breakdown). Do not use spermicidal lubricants, which can irritate the skin and promote viral transmission.
- Engage in Gentle Intercourse—Vigorous intercourse may leave microscopic genital skin tears, which invite virus transmission.
- Wash Thoroughly—Prior to, and following, all sexual activity, scrubbing with warm water and soap (which kill viruses) can aid in herpes prevention.
- Show Non-sexual Affection—Sometimes what is initially perceived as a need for sexual intimacy is in fact a longing for closeness. In such moments, hugging, kissing, and non-sexual massage can be very satisfying in promoting intimacy.
- Make No Assumptions—Even if you and your partner both have herpes, you may carry different strains and can further infect one another. Follow all of the above precautions.
While there are no 100 percent guarantees regarding herpes prevention, those affected with herpes should take heart in the fact that a properly medicated person who is symptom-free and uses condoms has a very low chance of transmitting the disease. Similarly, careful planning and proper disease management during pregnancy can greatly reduce the risks associated with childbearing when a person has genital herpes.