What is herpes prodrome? A prodrome is a physical sensation that signals that the herpes virus may be starting its travels to the surface of your skin. It will generally manifest as itching, burning, and/or stinging anywhere from 30 minutes to two days before an actual herpes outbreak. The longer you have herpes, the less often this will occur as your body builds up more and more immunity against the virus. Get to know your body. Pay attention to what it’s saying to you. It will keep you more in tune with yourself and with your partner.

Knowing your own body and the signals it gives you provides another level of protection for your partner.

General denial has many people just avoid considering that any sort of sensation “down there” might be associated with an oncoming herpes outbreak. But it’s important to get to know how your body is interacting with this virus. Getting to know your own body’s prodrome sensations will help you to take your herpes medication more strategically if you don’t want to take daily suppressive therapy (if you are doing episodic therapy, meaning only taking medication when you feel the prodrome sensations and/or during each herpes outbreak).

Another great reason to know your body and how your prodrome symptoms manifest is that it gives your partner another level of protection. Even if you take suppressive therapy and wear protection, there is still a chance of spreading herpes. Knowing your body and the signals it gives will allow you to avoid sexual contact during prodrome sensations. Your herpes-free partner will thank you for keeping them herpes-free.

Keep in mind, too, that herpes prodrome sensations won’t always manifest in an actual visible outbreak. That’s why they can be sneaky. It’s safe to assume that anytime you feel an itching, burning or pain in the general area where your herpes outbreaks occur that the virus is starting to wake up. And those sensations could be a signal that you are having a viral shedding occurrence (the herpes virus “silently/invisibly” sheds an average of 5-20% of the time, depending on the strain of herpes you have and whether it’s oral or genital). Even if there is no visible signs or symptoms, you can still spread herpes at that point. But this doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about sex! (For a great reframe on this, read “Keeping your partner herpes-free can be super sexy.”) You’re protecting your partner and flexing that muscle of integrity. The more body aware you become, the more informed you can be of when to have sex and when to not. That is where your partner’s trust in you grows. The more you can be aware of your own body has your partner trusting you on when it is safer to have sex. And trust is the foundation of any relationship.

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