Can genital herpes look like a rash?

A herpes rash causes small bumps that turn into blisters or sores. Depending on the area infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV), these may appear on the mouth, genitals, buttocks, and other areas. The rash can be painful. And while it can resolve, it can return over time because HSV never leaves the body.

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A herpes rash can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2, different strains of the herpes simplex virus.
Depending on the infection, a herpes rash can appear on the lips, around the mouth, on the genitals or buttocks, and elsewhere on the body.

Genital Herpes Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatments

How to Identify a Herpes Rash

Contact dermatitis can sometimes cause blistering, redness, and swelling on the skin. This is usually caused by an allergic reaction. Babies often get this on their nappy area. Shingles, which is an infection caused by the varicella zoster virus, can also cause fluid filled blisters. Unlike herpes, a shingles rash develops on one side of your face or body and most commonly affects the back and stomach. Scabies is caused by a parasite which burrows into your skin and lays eggs. This can cause an extremely itchy rash that looks like pimples. This can cause scaly and flushed areas of the skin and is sometimes mistaken for a herpes rash. Scabies is more likely to appear on different parts of your body than your mouth or genitals.

Because herpes viruses are highly contagious, it is important to avoid skin-to-skin contact (sexual and otherwise) until the rash resolves. You can spread herpes to someone else, but also from one area of your body to another.

Herpes can be passed onto a baby during pregnancy, labour, or after birth. This is called neonatal herpes and is a rare and serious condition. A herpes rash on a baby will look the same as on an adult, but the rash and sores can develop on the skin, eyes, and inside the mouth. A baby does not always develop a herpes rash.

The Herpes Rash

Difference Between HIV and Genital Herpes

The location of the rash and its duration can vary depending on the infection:

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What Could Be Mistaken for a Herpes Rash?

In addition to a rash, oral herpes may be accompanied by:

There are also other things you can do at home to help with the herpes rash, such as:

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Herpes blisters commonly erupt, leaving a painful ulcer with raised edges. The sores can ooze and crust over. Severe outbreaks can cause scarring.

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How to Treat a Herpes Rash

In addition to a rash, genital herpes can cause:

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When herpes infects the hand, it can cause herpetic whitlow on a finger, leading to symptoms such as finger swelling and pain, sores or blisters, and irritated skin that turns red and darker than your regular skin tone.

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Different things can trigger a herpes outbreak, including:

There is currently no cure for herpes although there are clinical trials taking place to look for a cure, including a herpes vaccine.

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