Herpes is a common name applied to two different viral strains herpes simplex virus-1 and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2). The first type, HSV-1 is the root cause behind cold sores, while HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes.
The symptoms of this condition are easily recognizable, while the tenacity of the condition is very well known to medical experts and layman alike. Even though the viral infection tends to decrease in severity as the time goes by, once this condition is contracted, it is impossible to completely cure it and eliminate herpes from the organism. As such, herpes is a lifelong condition marked by successive periods of activity and remission.
Whether it is an initial occurrence or a reactivation, medical experts will usually prescribe antiviral treatments that can limit an outbreak rather successfully, bringing the infection under control.
However, undoubtedly the best way to reduce the chances of herpes reactivations is to prevent and avoid those factors and circumstances that are known to play a significant role in kick-starting the virus and bringing it back into a period of activity. But, the question remains – what are those factors and how can one avoid them? This will be the topic of this article.
What’s on this page:
Stress and herpes reactivations
As is the case with many other health conditions, stress and anxiety can be significant contributors to flare-up of the symptoms and the same is true for major herpes reactivations. According to a 1988 study conducted in Canada, around 16% of those affected with herpes reactivations had elevated stress levels just prior to the outbreak. These results are in line with another 1999 study undertaken by scientists in California which confirmed that high anxiety levels can really be contributing factor to herpes outbreak. However, a 1997 study from London managed to shed light on this pattern with more detailed information. Scientists involved suggested that the way subjects coped with stress played much more prominent role in the possible herpes reactivation as opposed to stress itself.
With this in mind, it would seem credible to suggest that there is a direct link between stress and herpes reactivations, so those who have been infected in the past should try to obtain stress-coping skills which would, at least to a certain extent, allow them to keep the risk of herpes reactivation under control. Stress management does seem to play a prominent role in preventing subsequent outbreaks.
Weakened immune system
It goes without saying that the immune system, body’s natural defence against illnesses plays a crucial role in preserving the health of an individual. Once compromised, the body becomes much more susceptible to different dangers, including viruses, bacteria or parasites. The same is true for herpes and other sexually transmitted infections.
Over the course of those periods when the immune system isn’t at its best, as is the case during periods of stress, exhaustion, or lack of sleep, an outbreak is much more likely. With this in mind, it is not surprising that conditions that affect the immune system directly, such as HIV, can make herpes a life-long chronic condition.
Proper rest with recommended 6 to 8 hours of sleep each day is thus crucial for keeping herpes reactivations at bay. Other precautions which will contribute to your general health and wellbeing are thus also instrumental in managing herpes. These include proper diet, physical activity and other similar activities and practices which are known to contribute to general health.
Another harmful practice that is often linked to recurrent herpes outbreaks is the excessive consumption of alcohol. Scientists mostly agree that this is because alcohol has a known tendency to temporarily compromise the efficiency of the immune system. In fact, one study conducted in the US showed that binge-drinking has a measurable effect on the decrease in production of immune cells. This means that alcohol consumption, especially when it is excessive has the capacity to make it much harder for the body to fight off both new and latent infections.
With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that medical experts advise people who experienced herpes outbreaks in the past to be careful and set reasonable alcohol limits for themselves.
Ultraviolet light and herpes
It seems that even spending too much time exposed to direct sunlight can have an adverse effect and contribute to herpes reactivation. One research conducted in Florida in 1994 compared the likelihood of herpes reactivation in people whose skin was ultraviolet-B resistant and people whose skin was ultraviolet-B susceptible. The study confirmed that in patients who were UVB-R no increase in symptoms could be noticed following exposure to direct sunlight, but the same wasn’t true for all UVB-S patients.
On the other hand, a different study found out that the use of acyclovir was a rather effective preventive measure for those affected by HSV-2, so this problem can be mitigated without avoiding UV exposure.
How to be prepared for herpes reactivation?
While it is not possible to completely cure herpes, the condition can be effectively managed in a vast majority of cases. Keeping the symptoms of HSV-2 under control is not impossible, if you are prepared for it. This involves taking certain precautions in order to minimize exposure to triggers that can bring on the reactivation of the virus. At the same time, one should pay close attention to possible early signs of reactivation so it is possible to seek medical advice and begin treatment timely.