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How Do I Recognize Pus from Herpes?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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At the beginning of a herpes outbreak, you will usually not notice any blisters or pus. Later, however, you may notice red bumps, then sores with pus in them. Pus from herpes is generally clear or yellowish in color, and it is typically very contagious. If a herpes sore ruptures, more sores may crop up where the pus came in contact with healthy areas of skin.

Both oral and genital herpes are caused by a virus, known as the herpes simplex virus. Oral herpes, which is caused by herpes simplex virus type 1, will often result in sores and blisters around the mouth, known as cold sores. Genital herpes, which is most often caused by herpes simplex virus type 2, causes sores and blisters in, on, and around the sexual reproductive organs. Men may notice sores and pus from herpes on the penis or testicles, as well as in the urethra. Women will usually notice these symptoms inside and outside the vagina.

Symptoms at the beginning of a herpes outbreak may not be noticeable. The area may become slightly red, and it may also be a bit itchy. Even if there are no visible sores or pus, this viral infection may still very contagious, and it can easily be transmitted from one person to another.

Small red bums may appear next. These bumps will often become larger, creating fluid filled blisters or sores. Many times, a number of smaller blisters will cluster together, creating one large sore.

When these sores rupture, the fluid inside them will leak out. The pus from the sores is usually clear, but it might also be cloudy or straw colored. In some cases, the pus inside the sores will also be tinged with blood, making it appear pink or red. Ruptured herpes sores will often resemble an open skin ulcer, and they will generally be very painful. Eventually, the fluid inside these sores dries, forming a crusty scab that will eventually fall off.

Herpes, particularly genital herpes, is a very contagious viral infection. Although it can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, you are more likely to contract this disease if you come in contact with the fluid or pus from herpes sores. If you suspect that you have contracted a herpes infection, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. You should also alert any recent sexual partners.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Serendip — On Oct 16, 2013

I've found that stress and lack of sleep usually causes an outbreak for me but I can avoid the pus and cut the life of the coldsore significantly by taking medication for it.

By ParallelLine — On Oct 15, 2013

Something like 80% to 90% of the population is infected with the herpes simplex virus so it's very common and there is no social stigma associated with having a cold sore. If you are plagued very often, as an adult you can get a prescription from your doctor that will keep the outbreaks in check.

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