Getting Through a New Genital Herpes Diagnosis

It is normal to feel upset and distressed as with any new diagnosis of a medical condition. Remember that herpes doesn't discriminate and you don't need to 'blame' yourself for what is actually a very common condition.

Make sure you have a follow up appointment with your doctor a week after your diagnosis. Ensure you are comfortable with the health provider you are using.  Your local sexual health clinic are experts in caring for people with herpes and provide free check-ups, resources and counselling support. You may wish to take your partner or someone you trust to your appointment with you.

Inform yourself with accurate, up-to-date information that can be downloaded from the New Zealand Herpes Foundation (NZHF) website.  There is also a Herpes Helpline 0508 11 12 13, which is a free service providing education and support (for people in New Zealand only). Use the Herpes Helpline for free advice and counselling to reassure you about how a diagnosis may affect your current or new relationships.  Remind yourself that this infection will not affect your fertility, give you cancer or mean that you can't have a healthy, enjoyable sex life.   Herpes is  not life threatening and does not change who you are as a person.  You may find using a support group helpful: reassurance can be gained through discussion with people who have a similar condition, the NZHF can facilitate this process. If you experience anxiety or depressive symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks, your doctor can refer you for professional counselling with your consent.

The first herpes episode is usually the most severe in terms of symptoms. Look after your physical comfort and after a few days you should start to feel symptoms ease.

Simple Treatments for the Relief of Discomfort

The following treatments may alleviate the pain and discomfort of genital sores:

  • Salt baths used to wash the genital area, can clean, soothe and dry the sores. Use 1 teaspoon of salt in 600ml of water, or a handful in a shallow bath. 
  • Pain relievers include simple analgesics (such as aspirin and paracetamol), ice (which can be soothing if applied directly to the sores) and creams with an aesthetic component. Creams, however, can slow down drying and should therefore be used sparingly and only for pain relief.
  • Loose underclothes, preferably cotton (not nylon), can help minimise discomfort and allow healing.
  • Avoid using scented soaps or perfumed products on the area,
  • Use a low setting of a hairdryer to dry the area with the lesions.
  • Drink fluids hourly. This will make passing urine less painful. For anyone who is experiencing extreme pain when urinating, sitting in a warm bath or using a pump buttle full of water and spraying water on yourself while urinating can make the process less painful. If you are given anaesthetic gel, apply 5 minutes before going to the toilet.

Remember, herpes is like any skin condition and can be managed with appropriate treatment.