Mobile phone screens showing virtual care appointment for online herpes treatment

Herpes online treatment: how it works

Medically reviewed on April 4, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. 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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Infections caused by herpes simplex virus (commonly known as “herpes” or “HSV”) are some of the most common. The World Health Organization estimates that about 4.1 billion people worldwide carry some form of the herpes virus [1].

If you suspect that you’re showing signs of herpes, you might be looking for a discreet, convenient treatment option. Luckily, both gential herpes online treatment and oral herpes medicaiton online are available via telehealth services: healthcare services that connect patients and providers virtually without the need for an in-person visit [2].

Whether you’re seeking STD online treatment for yourself or a loved one, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re explaining everything patients can expect when seeking treatment for herpes infection through telehealth. We’ll also explore some basics about herpes as well as considerations to keep in mind before and during treatment.

Herpes: A brief overview

Herpes infections typically present themselves in one of two forms [3]:

  • Genital herpes infections, which can be asymptomatic or produce blister-like sores on your genitals and surrounding skin
  • Oral herpes infections, which can be asymptomatic or produce cold sores or fever blisters in, on, or around your mouth

Herpes infections occur when a patient becomes infected with one of two viruses: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) [3].

When it comes to herpes, it’s important to note that:

  • Oral herpes infections are typically caused by HSV-1 and genital herpes infections are more commonly caused by HSV-2 than HSV-1 [1]. However, HSV-1 infections can spread to the genitals during oral sex [3], as well as to oral areas.
  • While many herpes infections are sexually transmitted, you can contract herpes through non-sexual contact with the saliva of an infected person (which explains why many children develop oral herpes infections at a young age) [3].
  • There is currently no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2—while people who contract herpes have the infection for life, most people don’t even know they have it and don’t develop symptoms [4].
  • People carrying either herpes virus can transmit the infection whether or not they’re symptomatic through saliva, genital fluid, genital skin contact, or oral skin contact [3].

Most importantly, people carrying either strain of the herpes simplex virus can still have sex [3]. The CDC recommends preventing transmission by correctly wearing or using:

  • Condoms that cover the penis
  • Condoms inserted into the vagina
  • Protective latex sheets for oral sex (sometimes called dental dams)

6 steps for treating herpes with telehealth providers

If you’ve observed potential signs of an oral or genital herpes infection (like cold sores, fever blisters, or genital sores3), herpes online treatment via telehealth is one option for getting the care you need. Let’s break down the telemedicine treatment process step by step.

Find out what your insurance policy covers

If you have insurance coverage, and you’re interested in using your insurance to cover some of the costs of treatment, you should find out what your policy covers before taking any further steps. We recommend finding out:

  • What services are covered under your policy – Not all insurance policies cover sexual health services (like STI treatments) [5]. Your policy may cover testing, but not prescriptions or provider visits. Read your policy closely or confirm coverage with your insurer.
  • Which providers are in-network – Choose providers that are in your insurer’s network to reduce your costs [6]. When seeking telehealth treatment or care, ask your insurer about in-network providers, or file a claim for out-of-network care to receive a reimbursement.
  • Your estimated costs – Ask your insurer about copays or coinsurance payments for appointments, testing, and prescriptions to estimate your overall costs for online herpes treatment.

Choose a virtual provider

If you don’t have medical insurance, you can still seek online treatment for herpes and pay out of pocket with the provider you choose. As you evaluate your healthcare provider options, consider:

  • Providers who specialize in reproductive medicine, sexual health, or STIs – While providers in numerous disciplines can help you identify and treat a herpes infection, providers with specialties in reproductive, sexual, or STI care might be the most knowledgeable about your symptoms and long-term treatment options.
  • Providers who offer online and in-office care – While it’s possible to complete herpes treatment 100% virtually, your provider may recommend in-person testing or treatment. Choosing a virtual provider that also offers in-person services in your area could make treatment more holistic.

Attend your first appointment

You can feel comfortable discussing your symptoms and needs from the privacy of your home when using an online genital herpes healthcare provider.

At your first appointment, your telehealth provider may ask you a few introductory questions about your general health, family history, and sexual wellness.

Then, to analyze your herpes symptoms specifically, they might ask about:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your sexual history, past and present
  • Any previous outbreaks that may have been herpes infections

While you wait for your first appointment, we recommend keeping a journal and/or photographs of your symptoms—these might help your provider more accurately diagnose your infection as herpes (instead of a separate STI or skin condition). If you choose to keep a journal, write down daily observations about:

  • Your sore, blister, or outbreak area
  • Other skin changes, like discoloration
  • Any discomfort, like itching or burning sensations

Private STD consultations

Complete the testing your provider recommends

An online healthcare provider may supplement your online visit with an at-home or in-clinic test to confirm any prognosis. They may prescribe tests to:

  • Confirm that you have the HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus [7]
  • Rule out other STIs with similar symptoms, like syphilis and gonorrhea [8, 9]
  • Check or confirm your HIV status (since herpes can increase your risk of contracting HIV) [3]

While there are tests available that can detect HSV-1 and HSV-2, they’re not as common as tests for other STIs [7]. In cases when your provider doesn’t recommend HSV-specific testing, they may request an in-person examination if you’re currently showing symptoms. But since herpes is so common, and symptoms of herpes are relatively distinct from other STIs, providers don’t always need an in-person exam to confirm diagnosis.

Follow up to discuss your test results and treatment

If your provider recommends testing, they’ll likely also schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss your test results and develop a personalized treatment plan.

While there isn’t a cure for either herpes virus yet, providers typically recommend one of three treatment routes for patients with active herpes outbreaks [4]:

  • Cryogenic treatment – For a large or especially painful genital herpes outbreak providers may recommend liquid nitrogen treatment to speed up healing and provide pain relief [10]. This short procedure must be performed in person by a qualified healthcare provider to prevent skin damage and reduce the likelihood of long-term scarring [10].
  • Topical medications for oral herpes – Both over-the-counter and prescription topical medications can speed up healing for an oral herpes outbreak (i.e. cold sores and fever blisters) [11].
  • Daily antiviral medications – Providers may prescribe prescription antiviral medication (sometimes called prophylactics) that can speed up healing and decrease the frequency of herpes breakouts [4].

Depending on the severity of your current breakout, the frequency of breakouts, and your lifestyle, some providers may recommend simply waiting for your current breakout to subside on its own [3].

Schedule additional appointments as necessary

Since the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses stay inside the body for life, you may experience additional breakouts over time—even if you’re taking daily antiviral medications [3]. Your provider may recommend making routine follow-up appointments to:

  • Manage prescription medication
  • Discuss the results of routine sexual health tests (like screenings for STIs and HIV)
  • Ask about new or worsening symptoms

However, in most cases, people with HSV experience infrequent symptoms and experience little quality of life disruption—whether they seek ongoing observation by a healthcare provider or not [3]. Your provider will likely be happy to schedule an appointment anytime you feel you need one, but they may not recommend routine visits if you have infrequent breakouts.

2 things to consider while seeking online herpes treatment

What should you keep in mind as you complete the steps in herpes online treatment? Let’s explore a few elements to consider throughout the process.

Keeping your partners informed

The CDC recommends informing your past sexual partners if you’ve been diagnosed with an STI [12]. Why?

  • Herpes can be difficult to detect—if there’s a possibility that you passed the infection to a partner, they may not even know they have it if they never develop genital herpes symptoms [3]. But whether they’re asymptomatic or not, they could pass the infection to their future partners if they don’t take precautions [3].
  • Once you’ve been diagnosed with herpes by a healthcare provider, you have the information you need to make informed decisions about your sexual health. You should give your past partners the same ability to maintain a healthy sex life and prevent the further spread of the infection.

Using an at-home collection kit for testing

So, how to test for herpes? If your online herpes treatment provider recommends STI testing, ask them about all your testing options. While you could make an appointment at a traditional, in-person lab testing facility, at-home collection kits can provide a more convenient or accessible testing option for:

  • People with demanding work schedules
  • Parents of young children or busy home lives
  • Residents of rural communities with limited access to in-person facilities

Most at-home collection kits are simple to use. All you have to do is:

  1. Order a test kit online and register it with the testing provider
  2. Collect your sample from the comfort of your home
  3. Mail your sample to a testing lab using prepaid postage
  4. Await your test results

Access discreet STI care from Everlywell

STD online treatment via telehealth can be an accessible, convenient, and discreet care option for people managing symptoms of herpes. Confirming your diagnosis can empower you to make informed decisions about your sexual health and wellness, improving your quality of life and preventing the spread of the infection.

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  1. Herpes simplex virus. World Health Organization. Published March 10, 2022. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  2. What is telehealth? Published June 29, 2022. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  3. STD Facts - Genital herpes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 3, 2022. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  4. Genital herpes treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published December 8, 2021. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  5. Preventive care benefits for adults. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  6. In-network versus out-of-network. Florida Blue. Accessed March 10, 2023.
  7. Herpes (HSV) test. MedlinePlus. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  8. Detailed std facts - syphilis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 12, 2022. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  9. Std facts - gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 22, 2022. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  10. Fraunfelder FW, Alloju S, Patel M. Liquid nitrogen cryotherapy treatment of herpes simplex epithelial keratitis. Missouri medicine. Published 2017. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  11. Acyclovir topical: Medlineplus drug information. MedlinePlus. Published June 15, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2023.
  12. Just diagnosed? Next steps after testing positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published March 31, 2020. Accessed March 13, 2023.
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