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Oral Herpes (cont.)

How Do Doctors Diagnose Oral Herpes (HSV-1, Herpes Simplex Virus-1)?

A doctor will base a presumptive diagnosis on information provided by the patient and on the physical examination. The characteristic appearance of the herpes sores leaves little doubt about the diagnosis, so the typical appearance of the sores is key to the diagnosis. This appearance helps distinguish oral herpes from oral thrush, shingles, gonorrhea, and syphilis. In addition, chapped or sunburned lips can resemble oral herpes, but the tissue stain (Tzanck smear, see below) shows no virus-induced cell changes. Further testing is usually not necessary but is sometimes done.

If a definitive diagnosis is needed, because, for example, the infection involves other organ systems, the doctor may conduct laboratory tests listed below:

  • A sample (tissue or fluid) from the sores to identify the virus as HSV
  • A viral culture analysis
  • A staining test called the Tzanck smear (shows nonspecific cell nucleus changes due to HSV)
  • Antigen and antibody studies (serologic and PCR tests to determine if infection is caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2)

Are There Oral Herpes (HSV-1, Herpes Simplex Virus-1) Home Remedies?

  • Use acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol) or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Excedrin, Advil, Motrin) for fever and muscle aches. There is data suggesting acetaminophen may be triggering asthma development in some children so parents should check with their child's pediatric doctor before using over-the-counter drugs containing acetaminophen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid physical contact with the lesions and any lesion secretions.

For mild infections, self-care may be adequate for treatment. Other treatments termed "home remedies" are not considered cures but can ease or hasten recovery. These remedies include aloe vera gel, cornstarch paste, and tea or mint leaves. A cool compress may reduce pain. There is no cure for the infection. People with severe infection symptoms, especially children, should be evaluated by a medical caregiver.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/19/2016

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Oral Herpes:

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Herpes Simplex Encephalitis »

The human herpesvirus (HHV) family includes 2 clinically important strains, also known as herpes simplex virus (HSV).

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