How to Manage Herpes While on Vacation


This is it — the week you’ve been waiting for the past several months. Within the next few days, you’re leaving on vacation! You’ve planned your excursions, you’ve set your out-of-office email message, and your bags are packed. Nothing can dampen your excitement now. Nothing except one thing, that is.

Out of nowhere, you feel it. It’s that tingling, stinging sensation that only means one thing. You’re about to have a herpes outbreak. Before you get frustrated and declare your vacation ruined, keep reading. There are several things that could minimize how much the blisters will interfere with your well-planned fun.

1. Keep Your Antiviral Meds on Hand

If you’ve been diagnosed before, do your best to keep your genital herpes treatment available. Outbreaks aren’t predictable, so you never want to be without it. If you’re leaving for vacay, simply grab the bottle from your medicine cabinet. Running low? Be sure to get your prescription refilled before your trip.

The great news is that you don’t even need to head to the doctor’s office for a prescription these days. A quick online appointment with a healthcare provider is enough to have the medication delivered to your doorstep. If you’re diagnosed, your doctor will likely prescribe one of four oral antivirals:

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • Famciclovir (Famvir)
  • Penciclovir (Denavir)

Steer clear of any ointments. Genital blisters need air to heal, and creams just stand in the way. You definitely don’t want to drag out recovery. 

2. Give Your Hair Dryer Double Duty

Speaking of letting things “air out” — if you’re going away for several days, you’re probably carrying a hair dryer. If not, most hotels have one available. Be sure you use it for more than drying your hair after a good shampoo. Put it on the cool or low setting and use it (rather than a towel) to dry your genital area.

This tactic offers two benefits. Blow drying keeps the virus from attaching to a towel and potentially spreading to other people sharing your bathroom. The cool air also soothes some of the itching and burning. It also dries out your sores and may help them heal faster.

3. Nix the Tight Underwear

Let’s stick with this theme of letting your genital area breathe. You’ll need to remember to only wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Avoid synthetic materials like polyester at all costs. They trap in moisture, and that’s a recipe for continued discomfort.

Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the pool while you’re away. A bikini top and a comfortable pair of short shorts are great options. If you really want to stick with your bathing suit, you can. Choose an older pair of underwear, cut out the crotch, and sew it into the swimsuit. Voila — you have a more breathable fabric against your skin!

4. Know What Sets You Off

Just like a herpes outbreak is unpredictable, so are the things that trigger one. This is a highly personal thing that you’ll figure out over time. It might take a little trial and error, but eventually, you’ll get a good handle on what you should avoid. Keep these things in mind in the run-up to your vacation.

For some people, eating unhealthy foods is enough to put a breakout into motion. Getting overly stressed without relieving the tension may put you over the top as well. Tight-fitting clothing that causes a lot of friction irritates your genital area, too. You can keep these factors at bay, though. Eating a healthy diet, sleeping enough, and getting some exercise will help.

5. Take Lysine

You’ve probably been warned to be somewhat suspicious of using supplements to control medical issues. In this case, you can feel confident. The amino acid lysine has been shown to reduce the number of recurrent outbreaks in lots of people. Your body can’t make lysine on its own, though.

Fortunately, you can get plenty in your regular diet. Fish, dairy, eggs, and meat are great sources to eat frequently. If you’d prefer, a daily 1000 mg supplement may do the trick. Want to be sure your herpes virus stays away during vacay? Up your lysine intake to 3,000 mg a few days before you head out. 

6. Don’t Forget the Lube

Consider this tip to be wise pre-planning. If you’re looking forward to a romantic getaway with your significant other, this is important. To safeguard your playtime between the sheets, you need to be smart beforehand. Remember that warning about friction in your genital area? A little is good (obviously) — but not too much.

Avoid setting yourself up for an outbreak by using lube. Reducing friction a bit during sex keeps your skin less irritated. It will also prevent any microtears that could lead to other problems. Just be sure you’re using a water-based lube. Oil-based ones can break down the latex in condoms, and those that contain spermicide may irritate the vagina.

7. Manage Your Symptoms

Let’s be honest. Even if you try all these tactics, discomfort from your herpes outbreak is still possible. In that case, it’s time to focus on managing your symptoms. The more you do to limit the itching and burning, the happier you will be.

Pain relief is probably No. 1 on your list. Try acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Aleve), to banish the soreness for a while. To reduce the itchy sensation, put a cool compress on your sores a few times a day. There’s also a solution to avoid the stinging sensation you feel every time you expose your sores to urine. It might sound silly, but submerging yourself in a tub of water to urinate can help you dodge the pain. 

Admittedly, feeling a herpes outbreak coming on is enough to mute your vacation excitement. Don’t let it rain on your parade too much, though. Your time away might not be as carefree as you were hoping, but it should still be great. If you keep these tips in mind, having too much fun will be all you can concentrate on!