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How to test for herpes: At-home herpes test made easy

Medically reviewed by William Ross Perlman, PhD, CMPP on December 14, 2019. Written by Kathryn Wall. 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.


There are many different types of STDs (or STIs) that can affect men and women, and being informed about sexually transmitted infections is important for caring for your health. If you think you’ve possibly been exposed to herpes or are experiencing symptoms you think could be related, don’t fret. You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. The first place to start is knowing your STI status.

You’re most likely wondering what herpes is and how to test for it. There are two types of herpes [1]: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 causes common cold sores and chancres at or around the mouth, and it’s also commonly known as oral herpes. HSV-2 occurs more often at or near the genitals and is more commonly referred to as genital herpes. Like gonorrhea and chlamydia and other infections, genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through close personal contact, such as kissing or sexual intercourse.

Fortunately, you can take a genital herpes test to help determine whether you’re infected. With Everlywell STD testing for women or STD testing for men, you can test from the privacy of your own home. So if you’re wondering, “How do you test for herpes?” our test is an easy way to do exactly that.

Signs and symptoms of herpes

Oral herpes is an infection in the mouth, caused by HSV-1 [2]. Symptoms often include cold sores or fever blisters, but you can have oral herpes without any symptoms. (Related: STDs in women)

The herpes simplex virus can be dormant until an active outbreak occurs. The initial infection typically has the worst symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes to headaches. Sores may occur in and around the lips and mouth. Recurring infections are usually milder, and may include redness, itching, or swelling. Painful, fluid-filled blisters can occur and are highly contagious. These blisters often turn into sores (or lesions), which will then scab over and typically heal in a few days.

Symptoms of genital herpes range from none to more severe manifestations [3]. The majority of genital HSV infections are mild, with little to no symptoms following the initial outbreak. For people who do experience symptoms, the usual course begins with genital inflammation, where the skin may itch or burn. Blister-like sores may appear. The sores may open, scab over, and heal.

Other indirect symptoms that can occur during an active herpes virus infection include fever, headaches, muscle aches, and a burning sensation during urination. (Related: How do you know if you have an STD?)

Genital herpes virus infections are highly contagious and spread through sexual contact. The first outbreak of herpes can last several weeks and usually affects the genital area. The virus then typically becomes inactive, but outbreaks may continue in the future. Fortunately, suppressive therapy—through the prescription of antiviral medication—is available for those who suffer from chronic, recurrent outbreaks.

If you think you may have a herpes infection, home testing could be a convenient option for you. If you’re wondering how to get tested for herpes at home, there’s good news: testing for HSV-2 is easy with the Everlywell female STD Test or male STD Test.

How to test for herpes

Everlywell makes it easy for you to test for STDs from the comfort of your own home—and that includes getting tested for herpes. So if you would like an easy at-home option to test for HSV-2, try the Everlywell home STD Test for women or the STD Test for men. Once your sample is received and analyzed at the lab, the test results are sent to you quickly and discreetly via our secure, online platform.

If you suspect you have herpes, the first thing you should do is contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can examine your blisters or sores to check for herpes. If you do have an HSV infection, your healthcare provider may recommend a treatment plan for you.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a genital herpes test if you have symptoms of herpes or a sexual partner who has genital herpes [4]. Note that some people have asymptomatic herpes and don’t show symptoms, but the CDC does not recommend asymptomatic screening for herpes [5].

Common questions

How do healthcare providers test for herpes?

How are you tested for herpes at a clinic or healthcare provider’s office? Healthcare providers will examine the location and severity of any active blisters or sores around the mouth or genital area. They may take a tissue sample of the sores to send to a laboratory for examination. A blood sample will be needed if an antibody test is used to check whether you have been infected with the herpes virus.


How to diagnose herpes?

Genital herpes is typically diagnosed through examination by a medical professional and a blood test. If you suspect you have genital herpes (which is primarily caused by HSV-2), you can take a simple antibody test from the convenience of your home with the Everlywell STD Test – Female or STD Test – Male.