/ Herpes
How Long does a Herpes Outbreak Last?

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How Long Does a Herpes Outbreak Last?

Every case of herpes is different depending on the person. There are many factors that can alter the amount of time it takes a herpes outbreak to clear. Some of these include:

  • What type of herpes—HSV-1 or HSV-2 you are suffering from
  • How many herpes outbreaks you’ve had in the past
  • How frequent your herpes outbreaks are
  • If you are taking preventative antiviral medication or using suppressive therapy
  • If you have already started treatment for this outbreak

That said, on average from the onset of initial symptoms, to being symptom free it takes about 2 to 3 weeks with proper treatment.

How Long Does an Oral Herpes Outbreak Last?

HSV-1, also known as oral herpes is very common and affects 2 out of 3 people globally. In many cases the virus remains dormant and you may never even know you have it.

But when an outbreak does occur it is best to know the signs and symptoms right away so you can get tested, and get treatment.

Oral herpes outbreaks come in the form of cold sores. There are several stages of HSV-1:

Stage 1: Prodrome –HSV-1 comes in contact with your skin and lips, causing reddening and a tingling sensation. After 1-2 days, the affected area may feel irritated, itchy and painful.

Stage 2: Swelling and Inflammation – The affected area becomes swollen, and inflamed

Stage 3: Formation of Blisters – Red, white, or clear, fluid filled blisters and/or cold sores begin to form. They last about 2 days and appear in a cluster as a single sore that is painful or sensitive to the touch.

Stage 4: Ulceration - After a day or two, the sores may burst, releasing fluid and becoming more painful. This generally subsides after about a day.

Stage 5: Scabbing or Crusting – As the sores begin to heal there may be crust that develops over the burst blister and forms a scab. After 2-3 days, new skin begins to form.

Stage 6: Healing – The scab that formed over the blister will start to heal. Do not peel the scab off until the wound is completely healed to avoid getting a scar.

While the stages of an oral herpes outbreak vary in time the process can take several weeks.

It is recommended you see your doctor to discuss which treatment plan can help you prevent and recover from an outbreak.

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How Long Does a Genital Herpes Outbreak Last?

Genital herpes, also known as HSV-2 affects the genitals. It is typically spread through sexual contact

There are also several stages to a genital herpes outbreak:

Stage 1: Prodrome – This stage is highly contagious. Pain, tingling or itching may begin as HSV-2 activates inside the skin.

Stage 2: Skin Redness – The skin may turn red and become sensitive. This lasts 1-4 days.

Stage 3: Lesion Formation – Lesions and sores will begin to appear around the anus or genitals. They will fill with fluid and may become very painful. The sores will last for 2-6 days.

Stage 4: Development of Lesions – This stage is the most contagious. The lesions or sores will continue to grow and eventually burst releasing the buildup of fluid. The sore may stay open and runny for 1-4 days.

Stage 5: Scabbing – After the fluid drains from the sores, they will dry out and scab for a few days.

Stage 6: Healing – The sores heal when the scabs fall off. Sometimes, a scab doesn’t develop, and the sores will just fade away. This process takes about 3-7 days.

If you suspect you have herpes and would like to speak to a physician and/or get tested and treated, book an appointment with a PlushCare online doctor now.

We accept insurance and appointments are available every 15 minutes.

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Dr. Anna E. Pickering

Dr. Anna E. Pickering

Medically reviewed by Dr Anna Pickering, PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology. Postdoctoral fellowship at Oregon Health & Science University. Anna grew up in Oregon & has a love for science and writing.

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