Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Living with genital herpes can be frustrating, as outbreaks require abstinence from sex and other activities until they settle. For this reason, you may wonder, how long does a herpes outbreak last?
First-time herpes outbreaks are typically the longest lasting, with remission occurring between 2 to 3 weeks after onset. 
Though genital herpes is a lifelong illness, the good news is that outbreak durations tend to shorten considerably with time and proper treatment. Below, we’ll map some guidelines to help you or a partner minimize acute discomfort and manage herpes outbreak symptoms.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a genital herpes infection, know that the first outbreak after transmission is usually the most severe.1 That said, genital herpes frequently presents with no symptoms at all, making regular sexual health testing a crucial component of proper diagnosis and care.
With time, some people notice changes in their physical health that signal that a herpes outbreak is coming. The most commonly reported genital herpes symptoms include :
The most noticeable sign of an active herpes outbreak is the presence of vesicles (sores or lesions) and discomfort in the affected area. During herpes outbreaks, sores or lesions may appear on or inside the :
Be sure to identify genital herpes vs. pimples in these areas, as they can be confused. In addition to genital lesions and discomfort, people who have recently contracted herpes may experience flu-like symptoms like a fever, body chills, and headaches. It’s common for herpes virus outbreaks to recur several times within the first year when outbreak frequency is usually at its highest. 
It’s a good idea to abstain from any sexual activity during a herpes outbreak. This includes:
Condoms and barrier methods of contraception are very important to use when having sex, even if you don’t currently have an active outbreak.3 Equally important is communicating your condition to all of your sexual partners so they can be fully informed when making decisions regarding intimate activities.
While genital herpes is a chronic sexually transmitted infection (STI), proper medication and management can significantly minimize the severity and frequency of outbreaks over a person’s life. 
Genital herpes is typically treated in one of two ways :
Antiviral regimens are determined by a variety of factors, including when you contracted the infection, outbreak severity, medical history, and more.4 While developing resistance to herpes medication is rare, it’s nevertheless crucial to follow your regimen as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Fortunately, many people report a much higher quality of life and fewer outbreaks after undergoing suppressive therapy. To that end, working with your healthcare provider can significantly improve your symptoms, prevent unnecessary disruptions to your lifestyle, and help you enjoy sex with a partner sooner rather than later.
Genital herpes can’t be cured, but there are several steps you can take to help find physical comfort during an outbreak:
When it comes to your sexual health status, Everlywell can help keep you informed from the comfort, privacy, and convenience of your own home. That’s because each test kit from our At-Home Sexual Health Test collection can be taken discreetly at home, and you’ll quickly receive physician-reviewed results you can trust.
Or, if you’d like more information from a provider, you can meet with a clinician via Everlywell. A licensed clinician can provide STD treatment online and help you understand your options. Browse our test collection and virtual care services today.