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What are the Most Common Herpes Symptoms?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Herpes symptoms are fairly easy to recognize when people know what they’re looking for. There is some difference in expression of symptoms depending on type of herpes, or where the herpes infected the skin. People with genital herpes can get herpes symptoms on the face, or those with oral herpes may get herpes blisters on the genitals. With this in mind, it’s simply important to determine how herpes looks and feels when it appears on the face or the genitals.

Oral symptoms may begin, especially the first time with flulike symptoms that could include a mild fever, achiness, and swelling of some of the lymph nodes. These symptoms don’t always repeat in subsequent expressions of the illness. Most often people might note a tingling or itching sensation usually in one specific area around the mouth or under the nose. In a few days, a red bump develops which can get covered with tiny blisters; these ultimately break or weep, and then crust over. The sore may feel painful or uncomfortable until the scabbing has healed.

Genital herpes symptoms may be slightly different, but they also may begin with fever, achiness and swollen lymph nodes, especially in the groin, and particularly during a first herpes outbreak. Any part of the genitals could be affected, and the herpes could occur inside or outside of the vagina, the anus, on the testicles, the buttocks, or on the penis. Sometimes infections occur in the groin or thigh area and are misdiagnosed as jock itch.

Like herpes on the face, herpes on the genitals usually start with the tingling sensation where the infection will break out. Those who have this condition and know it are strongly advised to pay attention to this symptom. It heralds an outbreak and means most people are contagious during this time.

After the tingling sensation passes, people might notice a clustering of blisters, which will ultimately weep, break, and scab over. The first few outbreaks a person gets may cause very painful blistering, and as people have the condition for longer, outbreaks may be less painful, though they’ll still be noticeable. The number of outbreaks is unpredictable. Some people have them frequently and others have very few.

One of the most important herpes symptoms that bears mention is that of contagiousness. At all times that lesions are present, people should avoid skin-to-skin contact with others. There is growing evidence that people who have this condition may be contagious at all times. Medications like Zovirax® can help lessen frequency of outbreaks and may help in preventing spread of the disease at all times.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Mar 30, 2014

Aside from itching, blisters and pain while urinating, fatigue is another common symptom of herpes. When the virus becomes activated, the immune system starts fighting it. That's why flu like symptoms can emerge, because the body is fighting a virus just as in the case of flu.

Fatigue is one of the first symptoms I experience before an outbreak. It develops along with the itching and tingling.

By ZipLine — On Mar 29, 2014

@candyquilt-- Fever is a common herpes symptom but this does not mean that everyone will experience it. Those with mild herpes may never experience fever. In fact, it is possible for someone infected with herpes to not experience any symptoms for a very long time. The virus can behave differently in different individuals. It has to do with an individual's immune system and how the body responds to the virus. So the virus may remain inactive for some time. Or it may cause few and mild symptoms that are barely noticeable.

So it's good to know about the common symptoms but realize that symptoms alone are not indicative of a herpes infection. A blood test is the only way to diagnose it.

By candyquilt — On Mar 29, 2014

Is fever a very common herpes symptom? I don't recall ever having a fever.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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