Why condoms and foams?
Laboratory studies have shown that the herpes virus does not pass through latex condoms. When properly used, such condoms are likely to reduce your risk of spreading or getting herpes. Nonlatex polyurethane condoms break up to five times more often, but even the best latex condoms don't guarantee safety. Sometimes herpes sores occur in places not covered by a condom. In these cases, the condom is of little help, if any. In fact, condoms and foams should not be relied upon when herpes sores or symptoms are present.
Some contraceptive foams contain ingredients (such as nonoxynol-9) that kill the herpes virus and other STDs in test tubes. They are best used along with condoms, not in place of condoms.
What else can I do after diagnosis?
Many people feel panicked or depressed when they have herpes. Partly as a result of these feelings, the first few outbreaks can cause a great deal of stress. It may be important, therefore, to take additional steps.
First, get the information you need so you aren't worrying unnecessarily. Understanding herpes gives you a positive way to deal with your concerns. Second, seek emotional support when you need it. Keeping your feelings to yourself may do more harm than good.
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What precautions can I take to prevent herpes?
Certain basic principles about reducing risk apply equally to herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs):
- You can eliminate your risk of getting herpes by not having sex with anyone (abstinence) or by having sex with a non-infected partner who has sex only with you (mutual monogamy).
- If you are not sure that you and your partner are free from infection, use protection during sex. Latex condoms, used properly from start to finish for each sexual encounter, can be useful protection.
- You can spread the virus even if you have no sores so always use barrier protection.
- Spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies may offer additional protection. Lubrication is helpful to prevent irritation.
- Use latex condoms and dental dams.
- During the "prodromal stage", you can be contagious, so abstain or use protection because you can shed the virus.
- Abstain from having oral sex or kissing if you have a cold sore.
- Always tell a prospective partner if you have herpes and use protection even if you do not have an outbreak.
- Get tested if you think you may have herpes and always use protection.
- Don't have sex with someone who has a sore on their genitals.
- Oral herpes can be transmitted to the genitals, and vice versa.
- Be aware if you have sex during an outbreak, you can spread the virus to your partner and you may prolong your own episode.