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An initial herpes outbreak, the first outbreak of herpes after viral exposure, will be characterized by pain, the appearance of swollen blisters, and a general feeling of malaise. Subsequent outbreaks will be less severe, as the body will be able to fight the virus more effectively. Not everyone who is exposed to the herpes virus will develop outbreaks, and people can carry the virus without having any symptoms at all. Regular testing for sexually transmitted infections is the only way to confirm disease status in the case of herpes.
People who do develop outbreaks will have an initial herpes outbreak around one to two weeks after exposure. In oral or genital herpes, the first signs will be a sense of tingling and itchiness, followed by the development of red bumps. The bumps will turn into fluid-filled blisters and the blisters may pop, creating open sores. The first herpes outbreak is usually very painful, in addition to being itchy.
The patient can have a fever of around 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsius) and may develop headaches, muscle pains, and swollen lymph nodes. Patients often feel fatigued during an initial herpes outbreak. In the case of women, vaginal discharges and difficulty urinating can develop, as herpes blisters may form in and around the vulva and vagina. Men tend to have less severe symptoms and may be limited to a handful of blisters.
Antiviral medications can be provided to treat the outbreak, although it will take several days for them to take effect. Some patients find topical applications of products designed to limit pain and soreness helpful. Genital herpes outbreaks can be soothed by baths in baking soda and other products known to limit skin irritation and pain. During the first herpes outbreak, the patient is also highly contagious. Close personal contact with areas where blisters are present should be avoided, and patients may want to contact any recent sexual partners about the herpes outbreak to encourage them to get tested.
Typically, an initial herpes outbreak is hard to miss. However, sometimes patients only develop one or two blisters, and they may not recognize them as herpes sores. For this reason, people who are sexually active should receive regular medical screenings to check for signs of infectious disease and other medical issues. If conditions like herpes are identified, treatment options can be discussed. Herpes is a very common condition carried by numerous people.