I got some sores down below after leaving hair removal cream on too long, I then started panicking about herpes as it looked so sore down below so I went to a sexual health center and she swabbed it and I got a negative result for herpes. How accurate is this swab? Is there any chance I could have it even though the swab was negative? @Dr_Paula
Thanks for your question.
You are right that a negative swab for herpes does not mean that you do not have herpes - if you have had the sores for a few days when the swab was taken it is often negative because your body has already fought the infection and there are very few viruses left to detect.
Obviously, I did not see the sore and can’t tell you whether you have herpes or not, but having raised the question it might be useful to find out about herpes anyway - so some information below.
It is also really important to remember that most people carry the herpes virus. Most people catch oral herpes when they are children. Children touch each others faces and most will pick up the virus when they are young. Some people get a cold sore when they first get the virus, some get one many years later and some never get a cold sore - but all those people could still carry the virus.
The cold sore virus can cause genital herpes and there is also a second virus that mainly causes genital herpes.
The points that I am trying to make are that:
Herpes is really common - more than half the population carry the virus - you are more normal if you have it than if you don’t.
The time when you get a cold sore or a genital sore does not necessarily relate to when you got the virus. It will often be dormant in your body for many years, with your immune system stopping it growing. If you suddenly get a herpes attack then it is often to do with the fact that you are a bit run down or have a cold (hence the name cold sore)
The final thing to remember is that unless you get herpes for the first time during late pregnancy - then it is unlikely to do you serious harm - although obviously the sores can be painful and annoying and sometimes a first attack can be very painful and annoying.
Women’s hour did a discussion herpes the other week with three women talking about their experience which might be helpful.
From about 5.55
Happy to answer more questions if anything is unclear or if you are still concerned.
It would also be very helpful if anyone else on the forum has had herpes and could talk about what it is like.