Getting tested for herpes is the only way to know if you have this sexually transmitted infection (STI). The earlier you know if you have herpes, the earlier you can seek treatment and take the necessary steps to stay healthy.
Herpes testing is available in a wide range of healthcare settings, including urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, and hospitals. If you need a herpes test, Solv can help you locate the top-rated test providers in your area so you can make an appointment at your earliest convenience.
Who should get a herpes test?
Anyone who has symptoms of herpes should get a herpes test. The CDC does not recommend getting a herpes test if you are not experiencing symptoms, reports the National Library of Medicine (NLM). However, you may need a herpes test if you meet other risk factors for this STI.
According to the NLM, you may need a herpes test if you:
- Have symptoms of herpes, such as sores or blisters on the genitals.
- Have a sex partner with herpes.
- Are pregnant and either you or your partner have had herpes in the past.
- Meet risk factors for other STIs, such as having multiple sex partners or being a male who has sex with males.
- Have symptoms of a brain or spinal cord disorder, such as fever, confusion, or severe headaches.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re unsure whether you may benefit from a herpes test. Your provider can talk to you in greater detail about your risk factors and make a recommendation based on your lifestyle and medical history.
How to get a herpes test
Herpes testing is available in many healthcare settings, including at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or your local health department, reports Planned Parenthood. It is also available at walk-in labs, urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, and hospitals.
If you want a herpes test, visit one of the locations mentioned above, or ask your healthcare provider if it offers this service. If it doesn’t, ask your provider for a referral to a clinic providing a herpes test, or use Solv to read reviews of testing providers in your area.
At-home herpes test kits are also available to purchase online and at pharmacies if you prefer to take this test in the privacy and comfort of your home.
What to expect during a herpes test
The herpes test can be done as a swab test, blood test, or spinal tap—also known as a lumbar puncture, says the NLM. It adds that the type of herpes test you get often depends on your symptoms and medical history.
During a swab test, your provider will use a swab to collect cells and fluid from a herpes sore.
During a blood test, your provider will use a fine needle to draw a small sample of blood from a vein in your arm. A herpes blood test usually takes under five minutes to perform, reports the NLM.
On very rare occasions, a spinal tap is needed to make the diagnosis. A herpes spinal tap is usually only performed if your healthcare provider thinks you may have an infection in your brain or spinal cord, notes the NLM. During this simple outpatient procedure, you will lie or sit on an exam table. Your provider will inject a local anesthetic into your back so you will not feel pain during the spinal tap. Then, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between the vertebrae in your spine and withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid. The NLM adds that a spinal tap usually takes about five minutes to perform.
After your sample is collected, the healthcare worker will send it to a lab for further evaluation. Test results are usually ready within a few hours to several days. Your healthcare provider can talk to you more about what to expect during a herpes test based on the type of test you are having.
How to prepare for a herpes test
No preparation is required for a swab or blood herpes test, reports the NLM. However, it adds that if you are having a spinal tap, you may be asked to empty your bladder and bowels beforehand. Your provider may give you any additional instructions regarding how to prepare for your herpes test if you are getting a spinal tap.
Testing positive for herpes
Positive herpes results are also commonly referred to as abnormal results, says the NLM. If your results come back positive, it means the herpes virus was found in your sample. It could also mean that you have an active infection, or were infected with herpes at some point in the past.
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you test positive for herpes. According to the NLM, there is no cure for herpes, but it rarely causes serious health problems. In some instances, your provider may prescribe medications that can help you prevent outbreaks or blisters. Some medications can also help you manage your symptoms.
Planned Parenthood suggests treating herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing soft and loose clothing, and keeping your genitals dry. It also recommends treating your herpes sores with an ice pack and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Planned Parenthood notes that factors that may cause herpes outbreaks include surgery, sex, sunburn, and menstruation. Planned Parenthood says other infections, skin irritations, and stress may also contribute to outbreaks. If possible, try to avoid behaviors that may cause outbreaks. Steps you can take to prevent herpes outbreaks include managing stress, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of quality sleep.
If you have herpes and do not seek treatment, you may continue to experience frequent outbreaks. Planned Parenthood adds that herpes can make it easier for you to get HIV due to the way herpes sores give HIV the opportunity to enter your body. It recommends always using condoms to prevent the spread of both HIV and herpes if you have this STI.
Find Herpes Testing near you
Herpes Testing FAQs
Is there an at-home herpes test I can do?
At-home herpes test kits are available from a large number of manufacturers. These tests can usually be purchased online or at a pharmacy. If you decide to test yourself for herpes at home, follow the directions as best as possible to get accurate results.
What are the risks and side effects of herpes testing?
A swab test for herpes has no known risks, says the NLM. A blood test may cause slight pain or bruising at the test site and a spinal tap may cause pain or tenderness in the back, along with a lingering headache.
What are the different types of herpes tests?
The NLM says there are three types of herpes tests: a swab test, blood test, and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). At-home herpes tests are only available as swab tests or blood tests. Contact your herpes test provider to find out which tests it offers.
When will my herpes test results be ready?
According to Planned Parenthood, test results for STIs like herpes are usually ready after five to 10 days. However, some herpes test providers may be able to produce your results more quickly. Ask your herpes testing provider when you can expect to get your results back.
How do I know if I need a herpes test?
You may need a herpes test if you meet risk factors for herpes or have had sex with someone who has herpes. A herpes test may also be necessary if you are experiencing symptoms of herpes or a brain or spinal cord disorder, reports the NLM.
How much does a herpes test cost?
The cost of herpes testing usually depends on factors such as geographical location and whether or not you have health insurance. Contact the herpes testing provider directly to find out the exact cost of this service or if the provider accepts your insurance plan.
Why doesn’t the CDC recommend herpes testing for everyone?
According to the CDC, it does not recommend herpes testing for everyone due to the possibility of an inaccurate test result. It adds that your chances of getting the wrong test result are high if you are at low risk of getting infected.
Can a herpes test be used to check for both oral and genital herpes?
A herpes test checks for the presence of the herpes simplex virus in the body, reports the NLM. Oral and genital herpes are both caused by the herpes simplex virus. The main difference between the two types of herpes is the location of its blisters.
What should I do if I test positive for herpes?
The NLM suggests contacting your healthcare provider right away if your herpes test comes back positive. Your provider can discuss all your available treatment options, including medications, and help you manage your condition.
How can I find a herpes test provider near me?
Use Solv to access a list of all the highest-rated herpes test providers in your area. Solv is easy and convenient to use and allows you to make an appointment with a herpes test provider online without having to make any phone calls.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Herpes (HSV) Test (December 3, 2020)
- Should I get tested for herpes?
- How do I get treatment for herpes?
- Frequently Asked Questions about STI Testing (August 16, 2018)
- Genital Herpes Screening FAQ (July 11, 2022)
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