This is one of those “how far can an elastic band stretch” questions. Which elastic band? How long is it? How thick is it? The duration of a herpes outbreak depends almost completely on the methods you employ to manage it. This puts its duration almost completely under your control.
How Long Do Herpes Outbreaks Last, and How Can I Shorten Them?
If you manage an outbreak perfectly, it can be negligible and last for only a day or two. If you leave it untreated and you accidentally spread it around your body, an outbreak can last for months and longer. The normal duration is anything from one week to three weeks.
To shorten the outbreak, do as many as possible of the following:
- Ensure that your immune system is functioning properly by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. The herpes virus hides in the nuclei of your cells while it is inactive, so your immune cells cannot find it. But when it starts replicating, which viruses must do to stay alive, and which happens during an outbreak, it is active enough for your immune system to locate and help destroy. In fact, after following a program called Ultimate Herpes Protocol, my immune system has destroyed the virus for good and my blood tests for it now always come back negative.
- While the virus is active, eat foods that have more of the amino acid lysine than arginine. This means that you should stack your diet with lean red meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, and yoghurt. For vegans, eat beans (especially sprouts and excluding peas and chickpeas), papaya, apricots, avocado, plums, apples, pears, figs, mangoes, guavas, peaches, watermelon, bananas, pineapples, beets, turnips, cauliflower, celery, spinach, lettuce, leeks, tomato, potato, sweet potato, squash, soy bean sprouts, and lentils. Reduce arginine rich foods for a week or two. These include whole and processed grains, chocolate, coconut, all nuts and seeds, citrus juices, grapes, berries, garlic, and onion. Unfortunately for vegans and vegetarians, it also seems to include soya products like tahini.
- Apply an antiviral cream the moment the pre-cold sore tingling feeling on your lips or the pre-blister sensitivity on your genitals starts. This indicates that the virus has already infected the location where the sores will appear, and it is usually accompanied by a tiny sore. To form a proper blister from this point, the virus needs to replicate. An anti-viral cream can prevent this from happening and can, thereby, prevent a cold sore or blisters from appearing. The sensitivity and small sore will disappear in a day or two. I use Herpeset, because together with its powerful antivirals, it also contains anti-inflammatory substances to help the sore heels if it has already formed.
- If the sore has already formed, apply the Herpeset or some other anti-viral, anti-inflammatory cold sore ointment anyway. The blisters will then last for at least 2 to 3 days, because the virus has already replicated inside the blister. At least it will then not replicate any further to prolong the outbreak.
- The herpes virus flourishes in a temperature slightly above normal body temperature, so it might help to refrain from exercise for at least two days while the outbreak is at its worst. In addition, if you want to take a hot shower during this period, keep some cold water nearby in which to dip a face cloth to cool your lips, nostrils, or wherever the sores normally appear. Since it is hot under plasters and thick underwear, leave the sores uncovered and where the flimsiest underwear in your collection. If you are at home at the start of the outbreak, wrap a block of ice in a handkerchief and hold it against the spot to help prevent viral replication.
- Similarly, the virus loves moist areas and will struggle if you keep your lips, nostrils, and genitals as dry as you can. This is another reason why it is advisable to keep them open to the air.
The blisters and the pinpoint – size sores that precede them are contagious. This means that you should not, for example, kiss or perform oral sex if you have a fever blister on your lips, but it also means that you should avoid spreading the virus around your own body. Scratching the blisters until they open causes clusters of blisters in several spots on your lips or genitals as the virus infected fluid runs. Constant touching of the sores can cause blisters on your fingers, called herpetic whitlow. Spreading the virus around can significantly prolong an outbreak, so refrain from picking at sores. Apply your cream with a cotton swab that you can throw away afterwards. Wash your hands often with Lysol, listerine, bleach, or rubbing alcohol, as all of these have been proved capable of killing the virus. Wash your crockery, cutlery, face cloths, underwear, and everything else that contacts the sores in water of at least 56°C or 132.8°F for at least 30 minutes.
- If you are currently experiencing your first outbreak, this is the worst it gets. Subsequent outbreaks are always shorter and less severe than the first one. The outbreaks become less frequent, shorter, and milder as you get older.
- If your immune system is weakened by another virus, poor dieting, extreme stress, or immunosuppressive drugs like transplant antirejection drugs and corticosteroids, you may need a prescription antiviral cream like acyclovir or penciclovir, or even an oral antiviral drug like acyclovir, valacyclovir, or ramciclovir. These are only necessary in extreme cases where the outbreak does not end.
Instead of just applying a topical cream, think of a herpes outbreak in holistic terms and use as many of these suggestions as you can. They all complement each other and can all contribute to hastening the end of an outbreak.