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Oral Herpes

When to Seek Medical Care

When to call the doctor

  • Because the sores are painful, you may have difficulty eating or drinking. To prevent dehydration, call your doctor as soon as you cannot eat or drink.
  • Call your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms, which suggest dehydration, occur:
    • A decrease in urination (fewer wet diapers in infants)
    • Drowsiness
    • Irritability
    • Dry mouth
  • Call your doctor if you or your children are not sure what the sores are.
  • If your child is younger than 6 weeks, notify your doctor when sores appear. Severe infection or disease complications occur more commonly in infants. For instance, besides affecting the mouth, the herpes simplex virus may go to the brain and produce damage.
  • People whose immune systems are weakened should also call their doctor when sores appear. Your immune system protects you from infection or fights infection. If your system is weakened, you are more likely to have severe infection or disease complication.

When to go to the hospital

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may warrant going to a hospital's emergency department.

Exams and Tests

A doctor will base a diagnosis on information you provide and on physical examination. The characteristic appearance of the herpes sores leaves little doubt. Further testing is usually not necessary.

If you require a definitive diagnosis, for instance, if your infection involves other organ systems, the doctor may conduct laboratory tests.

  • A sample from the sores to identify the virus
  • A culture analysis
  • A staining test called the Tzanck smear
  • Antigen and antibody studies
  • Blood sampling for antibody studies

Oral Herpes Treatment Self-Care at Home

  • Use acetaminophen (Feverall, Panadol, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Excedrin, Ibuprin, Advil, Motrin) for fever and muscle aches.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

 

Medical Treatment

Treatment includes medication for fever and taking plenty of fluids.

  • A topical anesthetic such as viscous lidocaine (Dilocaine, Nervocaine, Xylocaine, Zilactin-L) may be prescribed to relieve pain.
  • Oral or IV medication does exist for herpes but is not recommended for people with a normal immune system. It is used only for people with weakened immune systems, infants younger than 6 weeks, or people with severe disease.
  • Some people may require hospital admission:
    • Those with severe local infection
    • People whose infection has spread to other organ systems
    • People with weakened immune systems
    • Dehydrated individuals who need IV hydration
    • Infants younger than 6 weeks

Next Steps Follow-up

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use pain medications as instructed by the doctor.
  • Use medications to control fever.
  • Watch for signs and symptoms of dehydration.

Prevention

Avoid touching saliva, skin, or mucous membranes that have sores.

Outlook

The sores and symptoms of oral herpes completely clear up in 2-3 weeks. But the sores may reappear under certain stressful situations.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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