What causes herpes rash, and how can it be treated?

herpes rash
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni


Herpes skin rash can be caused by herpes simplex virus 1 or 2, depending on the type of contact with the infected person or virus. These rashes look like pus-filled or fluid-filled blisters, along with redness and pain in the affected and surrounding area of the skin rash. Herpes simplex virus should be treated with the prescribed antiviral medication to avoid spreading or developing a skin rash due to herpes. Once the virus gets active, it takes time to leave the body, affecting it longer. Acyclovir and valacyclovir are considered the best options to treat herpes, either orally or applied topically on the skin for rash treatment. 

What does a herpes rash look like? 

Herpes rash looks like inflamed, discolored skin with blisters and bulging. The surrounding area will most likely be pinkish-red. It will appear more prominent on light-skin types, as the discolored or dark-colored patches are blisters. They are painful and itch on a slight touch. 

Blisters due to herpes can appear as fluid or pus-filled blisters or liquid says Dr.Richard Honekar 

Some of the most prominent symptoms of herpes rash are as follows:

  • Redness and inflammation of the affected skin area
  • Pain or itching sensation in the rash area
  • Crusting or scabbing of the lesions as they heal
  • Burning or tingling sensation preceding the appearance of the rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the affected area
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and fatigue, in some cases
Are you experiencing skin rashes or blisters after herpes? Get connected with an online doctor now!

What are the causes of herpes skin rash?

Herpes skin rash is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Two types of HSV virus can lead to skin rash. Due to HSV 1 and HSV 2, skin rashes originated from different causes. 

HSV-1 skin rash 

  • HSV1 causes skin rash on skin-to-skin, and close contact with a person having this virus can lead to skin rash and blisters 
  • Kissing an infected person can lead to skin rash. 
  • Sharing lip balm, tableware, or toothbrushes can also lead to skin herpes. 

HSV-2 skin rash 

  • HSV-2 can only be caused by sexual contact with an infected individual, through which herpes will be caused along with the symptoms of skin rash. These rashes will come along the pus or fluid-filled blisters, leading to pain and itching in the genital and surrounding area. 

What triggers herpes rash?

There are some factors that can trigger the herpes rash once the herpes virus becomes active and stays active for longer periods, after which it will be triggered for some reasons, including : 

  • Stress
  • Acute illness 
  • Sun exposure
  • Hormonal changes (e.g., menstruation)
  • Fatigue
  • Immune suppression
  • Physical trauma to the affected area
  • Minor or major surgery

Proper treatment for herpes and herpes rash should be taken according to the doctor’s prescription for effective treatment. The prescribed medication, frequency, and dose should be completed as prescribed to eradicate the disease completely. 

It’s better to avoid any sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual to completely treat the herpes and skin rash related to the herpes simplex virus. 

Are you experiencing any of the symptoms that triggered your herpes? Get consultation and prescription now!

What are the treatment options for herpes skin rash? 

Herpes skin rash is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is treated with antiviral oral medications, topical antiviral creams, pain relief medications, some over-the-counter topical creams, and some home remedies. 

  1. Antiviral medications 

Antiviral medications like acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are recommended for treating the herpes simplex virus. These medications not only treat the symptoms of herpes but also control the symptoms of herpes skin rash, blisters, and pus-filled bulgings. 

  1. Topical antiviral creams 

Medications are also prescribed orally and topically to treat herpes and skin rash. Healthcare providers usually recommend Acyclovir (Zovirax) cream and Penciclovir (Denavir) cream for effective treatment of herpes symptoms and herpes skin rash. 

  1. Pain relief medications (NSAIDs / over-the-counter) 

Pain relief medications, including acetaminophen and paracetamol, are considered the best and safest options for effective pain relief in fluid or pus-filled blisters due to herpes skin rash. Ibuprofen is also considered and recommended by healthcare providers for teh pain relief in blisters or surrounding areas. 

Remember that your healthcare provider can only determine the best and most suitable medications. To achieve maximum effectiveness, take only the prescribed antiviral medications for the prescribed time. 

How to prevent herpes rash?

Herpes skin rash can be prevented in several ways, including lifestyle modifications, early detention, and home remedies. The following are the most recommended ones: 

  • Use antiviral medications as prescribed for the recommended period for effective treatment.
  • Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with infected areas to avoid spreading the virus. 
  • Practice safe sex, including using condoms to avoid herpes. 
  • Avoid sharing personal items like towels or razors
  • Manage stress effectively and engage less in stressful situations. 
  • Maintain a healthy immune system through proper diet and exercise.
  • Avoid triggers like excessive sun exposure or fatigue. 
  • Keep the affected area clean and dry. 
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching infected areas. 
  • Inform sexual partners if you have herpes. 
Get a well-suited prescription for antiviral medications for your medical condition!

Consult a doctor

Contact an online doctor if you have herpes or a rash due to herpes for an effective consultation and treatment options. To get effective treatment, following the prescribed antiviral medication for the prescribed period is important. 

FAQs about herpes rash

What can be mistaken for herpes? 

A number of medical conditions are often misunderstood as herpes, including ingrown hair, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis (due to blisters), contact dermatitis, jock itch or pimples, depending on how they appear, and other related symptoms. 

Does herpes itch a lot? 

Not a lot, but yes, herpes does itch. Itching from herpes usually occurs in the genitals for a maximum of 24 hours, after which the itching and tingling sensations stop. Doctors often recommend different antiviral topical medications to stop the itching. 

Can herpes simplex recur?

Yes. Herpes simplex virus 1 reoccurs less frequently than HSV 2 in a year. Both viruses lead to infection and herpes but occur at different frequencies depending on the treatment. 

Can I treat herpes simplex at home?

No, you can not treat herpes simple at home. You will need to get the correct diagnosis along with effective medication treatment. If it is delayed without proper consultation, it might get worse and never get treated. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Nagasako, Elna M., et al. “Rash severity in herpes zoster: correlates and relationship to postherpetic neuralgia.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 46.6 (2002): 834-839.
  • Weinberg, Jeffrey M. “Herpes zoster: epidemiology, natural history, and common complications.” Journal of the American academy of dermatology 57.6 (2007): S130-S135.
  • Dworkin, Robert H., et al. “Postherpetic neuralgia: impact of famciclovir, age, rash severity, and acute pain in herpes zoster patients.” The Journal of infectious diseases 178.Supplement_1 (1998): S76-S80.

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