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Genital Herpes - Medications

Antiviral medicines are the recommended treatment for genital herpes. They can relieve the pain and discomfort of blisters and sores and speed healing.

These medicines also decrease the number of days you can spread the virus (are contagious).

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Medicine choices

  • Antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex), are recommended for treating primary genital herpes outbreaks. This medicine can be taken when an outbreak occurs. It can also be taken every day to help prevent outbreaks.
  • Nonprescription medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), may reduce the pain and fever from genital herpes.

Taking antiviral medicines

Antiviral medicines work best when they are taken as soon as symptoms are noticed. For that reason, people with herpes should keep a supply of the medicine on hand.

If you have 6 or more outbreaks a year or have severe outbreaks, you may benefit from taking antiviral medicine every day. It may reduce the number of outbreaks by about 1 or 2 episodes a year.

If you take antiviral medicine every day, you may want to talk to your doctor about not taking the medicine for a short period each year. This can show whether your outbreaks are starting to occur less frequently. Then you can decide whether to keep taking the medicine.

People with impaired immune systems may be more likely to:

  • Need daily antiviral medicine to prevent recurrent outbreaks.
  • Develop a resistance to some antiviral medicines. For these people, other medicines are available, but they must be given through a vein (intravenously, or IV) and can have dangerous side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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