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About genital herpes treatment

We offer oral antiviral tablets and a topical anaesthetic gel as prescription treatment for people who’ve previously been diagnosed with genital herpes by a healthcare professional and are experiencing an outbreak or want to have treatment ready for the next outbreak.

If you’re looking for treatment to prevent an outbreak, please use our genital herpes suppression service.

If you need treatment for oral herpes, please use our cold sore service.

How do the treatments work?

The tablets work in similar ways. They don’t cure herpes but they reduce the severity and length of your outbreak, usually shortening it by one or two days.

The topical anaesthetic works by numbing the skin. It doesn’t treat herpes but helps with the pain it causes.

Need genital herpes treatment?

Clinical review within 2–24 hours

How do I take or use the treatments?

If the tablets are suitable for you, you would need to take the prescribed number of tablets for five days.

If you’re prescribed the gel you’ll apply 1–2ml to the affected area as needed. You mustn’t apply it to broken or damaged skin.

What are the side effects?

Common side effects of these tablets can include diarrhoea, dizziness, headache, nausea, skin reactions, vomiting, and sensitivity to sunlight. You might also experience abdominal pain, tiredness and fever as further side effects from Aciclovir.

Common side effects of the gel include numbness, headache, dizziness, palpitations and drowsiness. If you experience these side effects either stop or use less of the gel and don’t use it so often.

For full information of a medicine’s side effects and how to take it, it’s important to read the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medicine.

Important safety information

This service is only to treat herpes on and around your genitals.

Treatment is normally effective, but you still need to look out for signs that your infection is getting worse or not responding to treatment. If you’re unable to or have difficulty peeing, get severe headaches or neck stiffness, vomiting, or a temperature please get urgent face-to-face care as your infection may be complicated.

It’s important that you tell us which other medicines you’re taking — whether they’re prescription or medicines you’ve bought without a prescription. We need to know so that we can prescribe suitable treatment. If you’re taking certain medicines or living with certain medical conditions, this service might not be appropriate for you.

What if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

This service is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

What are my options if I don’t want these treatments?

An outbreak of genital herpes will probably clear up by itself. These treatments are to help make the outbreak less severe and to speed up healing, or reduce the pain. You could try soaking the skin in salt water or using a pain-relieving cream to help soothe your symptoms.

Keeping you safe

If you do not feel safe, are experiencing abuse or control, or have experienced this in the past, please find support below or send us a message:

Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 21/06/2021