Herpes refers to a similar type of infections which are caused by the virus – Herpes. The common herpes viruses are Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and Varicella Zoster Virus or (VSV). While each of these viruses triggers different types of symptoms, the common conditions which are linked to herpes are shingles, chickenpox, genital herpes and cold sores around the mouth. Also, the extent of the condition of these infections varies from one to another. If you are infected with the virus once, it will remain in your body permanently even after the condition itself heals. While in the majority of the cases, the herpes virus remains dormant inside the body, but in rare instances, it has also been studied to become active again. In such situations, it can cause recurrent herpes. As of now, no cure has been found for herpes. However, there are several medical treatments which can offer relief from the symptoms and alleviate the conditions. Besides, many natural remedies can be used at home to help alleviate the symptoms.
Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster
Herpes simplex is caused by HSV 1 or HSV 2 viruses and is an STD or sexually transmitted diseases. Herpes zoster is caused by VZV with a million cases being reported alone in the USA every year. Around 34% of the general population can contract herpes zoster once in their lifetime. Anyone, including children, who have survived chicken pox, can contract this infection. However, the risks of contracting herpes zoster increase as one age with reportedly 50% of the adult cases occurring in the age group of 60 plus years.
Patients of herpes simplex exhibit very mild symptoms, most of which goes unnoticed or could be mistaken for another skin condition. In some cases, the symptoms do not show up at all. When there is at all any appearance of symptoms, they are usually multiple blisters or her vesicles around the mouth, on the genitals or the rectum. The standard incubation period after contracting this infection is four days. In the initial stage, the blisters often burst out leaving painful ulcers and last for some three weeks.
Herpes zoster patients experience the eruption of rashes on their skin which are also painful. These rashes appear on one or both sides of their face or body. The hives become blisters which scab in around eight days and disappear within three weeks. Before the hives start appearing, the patient can feel a tingling or an itching sensation in the sports where they develop. Sometimes, it is accompanied by pain. This usually happens around three days before the occurrence of the rashes.
The rashes usually occur in single stripes and commonly on one side of the face or the body although in extreme cases they can be widespread resembling chicken pox. In rare cases, it can adversely affect the eyes causing loss of vision. However, this extreme condition is mainly noticed in patients with a weaker immune system. Herpes zoster or shingles as it sometimes also called can also trigger fever in the patient with chills, headache, and even stomach upsets. The herpes zoster transmits itself from one infected person to an uninfected individual or an individual who has never contracted chicken pox. In the latter, the person may develop chicken pox but not herpes zoster. VZV spreads infection through direct physical contact with fluids from blisters or vesicles. Before the appearance of rashes, there is no chance of infection and same when the hives are beginning crusting or scabbing.
The infections by the herpes simplex virus spread through physical contact with oral secretions, skin lesions, mucosal surfaces and even genital secretions. Typically, the HSV-2 is transmitted to another during a close genital contact while the HSV-1 can be transmitted during oral sex with an infected person.
Causes of Herpes
Herpes is a condition caused by a viral infection which is spread through personal contact and in other cases, through sexual contact. The virus gets into the body through a break in the skin which could be any cut or wound. In other cases, the virus can also enter into the body through the skin of the mouth, anus, cervix, penis or vagina. The virus transmits easily from one infected person to another uninfected person, and this also holds true for a pregnant woman whose infection can pass onto her baby during the delivery.
Chickenpox caused by the Herpes Zoster Virus is extremely contagious and spreads rapidly through direct contact with an infected person or from inhaling any infected droplets floating into the air. People suffering from chicken pox stand more risks of contracting shingles which is a relapse of the condition and is mainly triggered in people with very weak immunity.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 spreads infections through saliva such as while kissing or sharing the same utensils for eating and drinking as with the infected person or sharing the same personal items. Type 1 causes oral herpes. The infection is associated with the mouth, face, and lips. On the other hand, the type 2 virus related to genital herpes transmits sexually and is linked to genital ulcers and sores. The type 2 virus dies rapidly when outside the body, and so, genital herpes is unlikely to spread through little contact with a patient’s towels, clothes, linens, etc. Type 1 virus, however, can even spread through the shared use of utensils, toiletries, and towels and even kiss.
Cross infection can spread through oral-genital contact which can cause oral herpes in the genital region and genital herpes in the mouth. The symptoms are usually not visible and the infection can also spread through sores.
Stages and Symptoms of Different Herpes
Herpes outbreaks are characterized by enlarged lymph nodes, sore mouth and fever blisters. The first outbreak often causes fever in an individual and after that retreats to the nervous system. Triggers from an illness can activate the virus, consumption of certain foods, stress, hormonal fluctuations, surgery and weakened immunity.
The herpes infection spans through four stages. The first stage is known as the primary stage. It starts somewhere between 2 to 8 days after a person has been infected. In particular cases, the step may take longer to manifest. During this stage, the infected person displays small, red blisters which are fluid-filled and painful. Sometimes, these blisters can become open sores while in some cases, they may be hardly noticeable. Patients with genital herpes have difficulty in urination in the primary stage. In this stage, many people do not even realize they are infected.
In the second stage called the possible stage, there are yet no symptoms like blisters or sores that could give away the infection. This is likely because the virus is still in the process of transmitting from the skin to the nerves around the spine. The third stage called the shedding stage is when the virus multiplies within the nerve endings. If these nerve endings are near the body fluids, the virus also infects the semen, the vaginal fluid or the saliva. Since the infection is still in the process of spreading, there are still not detectable symptoms. Finally, while the fourth stage may not affect everyone but amongst those it does, there are recurrent sores and blisters after the initial stage is passed.
The herpes virus doesn’t only limit itself to adults. Children and teens can also become infected, and in which case, it is usually chicken pox and shingles caused by the herpes zoster. However, genital herpes infection spreads only through sexual contact.
When one is affected by genital herpes, the genital region becomes itchy and painful. There could be small white blisters or red bumps which can develop into bleeding ulcers. These gradually dry into scabs. Sores can erupt in the buttock, the vagina, the anus or the cervix in women and on the thighs, buttocks, scrotum, penis, and anus in the case of men. Patients experience a burning sensation when urinating. The lymph nodes in the groin are swollen.
In the case of cold sores caused by the HSV, there could be blisters around the mouth and on the lips accompanied by fever, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, eating or speaking, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and throat and case of children, drooling. Sometimes, the cold sores can also exhibit on the nostrils, fingers, inside the cheek, roof of the mouth, the chin, the gums or under the tongue.
When one is infected with chicken pox, there is an eruption of red and itchy rash that resemble insect bites and mainly spread out around the back, scalp, chest, and face. The hives look like fluid filled blisters which sometimes burst open and then begin to dry and scab. The patient feels uneasy and is irritable, restless and weak. There is a severe loss of appetite, often accompanied by fever. There could be mild to a severe headache and pain in the abdominal area as well as a dry cough.
Patients suffering from shingles experience itchiness, headache, and fever with chills. There is an appearance of a reddish rash that appears to be fluid-filled blisters which may break and crust over. The other symptoms like fatigue, numbness, pain, burning and tingling, body ache add in. However, unlike the other herpes symptoms, it is usually localized to only a small part of the skin.
Natural Home Remedies to Cure Herpes
There is no cure for herpes so far. Antibiotics have not been found to be very useful in its treatment either. There are certain antiviral medications which help in treating the condition and heal the symptoms faster. However, you could also rely on natural homemade remedies for alleviating the symptoms caused by herpes. These are as follows –
This is perhaps the simplest yet one of the most effective ways of soothing any skin irritation, including herpes rashes. Applying an ice pack directly on the rashes will relieve the itchiness and also reduce the pain and discomfort of the condition. Hold the ice pack on the affected areas for around 10 to 15 minutes for the ice to soothe the aches. This can be done 3 to 4 times a day.
Baking soda has been in use since the olden times for various medicinal purposes as it is a great healer of itching and bothering sores and helps dry those faster. To use this remedy take a piece of damp cotton and dip it in some baking soda. Now, apply this to the affected areas and let it dry off on its own.
Cold Tea Bags
Pressing cold tea bags on herpes affected parts of the body can bring relief from the itchiness, pain, and discomfort. The leaves of black tea are loaded with a lot of tannins. And, tannins are known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties. After you make tea using the tea bag, store it in the refrigerator for some time instead of discarding it. You can use these cold tea bags directly on herpes affected parts and hold onto the area for around 5 minutes or so. Discard the tea bags are using on the rashes and use a fresh cold bag every time. You can follow this easy home remedy for herpes 3 to 4 times daily.
The gel of aloe vera plant finds various uses in the field of medicine and likewise is known to be very effective in alleviating the herpes outbreak. Apply the fresh gel extract of an aloe vera plant directly on the rashes to lessen the itch and heal the skin naturally. However, remember that the market is flooded with so-called aloe vera gels which hardly prove useful. It is always best to use natural aloe vera gel extract for the best results.
Olive oil has moisturizing properties which soothe the skin. Moreover, the oil is enriched with antioxidants and is hugely useful in healing herpes outbreak. Warm a cup of olive oil and mix in lavender oil and beeswax. Cool this mixture and apply it on the affected parts.
The sores of herpes often leave a mark on the skin after they disappear and these are mostly permanent. To prevent this from happening vitamin E oil can be applied on the sores. You could also use a combination of different essential oils. These remedies not only prevent permanent scars from the rashes but also help heal the pain, itchiness, and discomfort. Some essential oils which are considered quite useful in this matter include calendula, golden camellia, jojoba, rose hip and olive leaf. Combine a drop or two of any of these oils with a carrier oil or just simply water. Apply the mixture on the affected areas and leave on.
This medicinal plant is enriched with medicinal properties and is known to boost the immunity. All parts of the plant including the flowers, roots as well as the leaves are used in healing herpes. Echinacea can be consumed in the form of tea, juice or pills in alleviating the symptoms of herpes.
Tea Tree Oil
The essential oil of tea tree is one of the most sought after remedies for healing the rashes of herpes in the mouth as well as the genital area. Add a few drops of the oil in a glass of water and gargle with it. This will heal the mouth ulcers caused by the herpes virus. To sooth the rashes in the genital area, drops of the mixture can be added on to the affected parts.
One of the most useful herbal remedies for herpes is a lemon balm. Lemon balm is enriched with phenolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and flavonoids which are greatly effective against sores and blisters. You can make a lemon balm tea, soak a ball of cotton in it and apply it on the sores. Alternately, you can add 2 to 3 ml of lemon tincture in water and drink the mixture. Drinking this solution three times a day ensures a speedy recovery from sores. You can also use lemon balm ointments and creams directly on the affected parts for the same results.
Epsom salt remains unparalleled in its healing effects on herpes. When suffering from a herpes outbreak take a warm bath with Epsom salt mixed in the water, it will help to cure. It will assist in drying up the sores and lessening the itching gradually. Alternately, you can mix in some of the salt in your bathtub and soak in those parts of your body which are infected. Leave on to dry on their own and finally take a shower.
You can heal the rashes caused by herpes by using the domebro powder at home. Mix a packet of this powder in water as directed on the packet. Take a clean cloth and soak with the solution and apply the damp cloth directly on the affected parts. This is greatly effective in the treatment of herpes outbreak and lessening the itchiness and irritation caused by the rashes.