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By: RSC Editorial Team

May 5, 2022

Jock Itch or Herpes: What Are the Differences?

It’s surprisingly easy to mistake jock itch for herpes and vice versa since, in its early stages, the sexually transmitted disease herpes presents in a very similar way to jock itch and other non-STD skin conditions. At first glance, even a common rash can look like the early stages of herpes. 

The most significant distinction between the two conditions is their cause. Jock itch is a fungal infection, while herpes is viral in nature. 

If you’re wondering whether what you’re dealing with is jock itch or herpes, read on. We’re going to look at the differences between the two conditions, the skin irritation and other effects of both, how they can transmit through skin contact, and more.

Distinguishing Between Jock Itch and Herpes

Regardless of the cause, dealing with itchiness in your groin area is uncomfortable, distressing, and scary. It’s common for those who suffer from this symptom to wonder if they might spread a disease or have long-term effects to contend with. In both jock itch and herpes, simple treatments exist to reduce symptoms and clear up an infection.

Jock Itch

Jock itch is a type of fungal infection that appears around the inner thighs, buttocks, and genitals. While it’s very uncomfortable, it’s not life-threatening. You can treat it with antifungal creams and similar treatments. 

The fungus that causes jock itch, called a dermatophyte, can’t do much in limited amounts. However, it can reproduce and spread quickly in a warm and moist environment. Once it spreads, you will have a fungal infection. While athletes aren’t the only ones affected, they commonly deal with this as a result of sweaty conditions while playing sports. 

Some common symptoms of jock itch include things like peeling or flaking skin, a long-lasting burning or itching sensation, and rashes that appear on or near the groin. Jock itch primarily affects men, but it can affect women also. Those living in humid and hot places are disproportionately affected.


Herpes is actually an umbrella term that refers to over 100 different viruses. With that said, only a small number of those 100 viruses can affect people. The most common varieties found in humans are genital herpes and oral herpes. 

The herpes simplex virus causes cold sores and is incredibly common worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that as much as 67% of the global population has this form of herpes. Herpes spreads through physical contact and is treatable through antiviral medications. 

If you believe you may have herpes, this 10 panel STD test from Rapid STD testing can help you find out your status quickly.

How to Tell If You Have Jock Itch or Herpes

While jock itch and herpes can present similarly in their early stages, they display noticeable differences as they progress. 

Jock itch symptoms change, depending on conditions like cleanliness, heat, and moisture. Herpes does not behave the same way. While you can get jock itch from not showering after exercise or by wearing clothing that’s not breathable, these factors do not affect herpes. 

Jock itch causes a distinct circular pattern to appear on the skin, but genital herpes does not. Jock itch also inflames the skin and can affect large sections of skin, while genital herpes tends to limit itself to a smaller area on the body. 

Herpes can cause lesions to form on the skin, and some men who suffer from genital herpes even report penile discharge resulting from a herpes infection. If you have a fishy smell on your penis, this may be a sign that you have a herpes infection. 

Lesions can appear on either the glans or the shaft around the skin of the penis for men, and women tend to report lesions that form either on the mons pubis, the clitoris, or near the vulva. With that said, you can also develop lesions on your thighs and buttocks and even near your anus. 

Jock itch, while very uncomfortable, rarely results in significant pain. On the other hand, herpetic lesions frequently result in pain, painful urination, and even fever

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with jock itch or herpes, Rapid STD Testing offers same day STD testing. After you take the test, you can expect to receive your results in as few as 1-3 days.

What Else Gets Mistaken for Jock Itch

Herpes is not the only disease that people frequently mistake for jock itch. Some other conditions that present similarly include dermatitis, scabies, genital warts, intertrigo, and erythrasma.


Dermatitis is a rash that can affect skin folds on the body. A common symptom of dermatitis is itching, but it can also cause flaky, itchy, and red irritation on the skin. Most cases of dermatitis occur directly after someone makes contact with an irritant, like a chemical, perfume, or another allergen. You can get dermatitis through either direct contact or through an atopic allergic reaction.


Scabies results when a mite burrows within the skin and lays eggs near the surface of a person’s body. Herpes tends to infect either the genitals or the mouth, but scabies can appear anywhere on the body. Scabies initially appears as a rash or as severe skin redness.

Genital Warts

Genital warts result from exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). These typically appear as bumps the same color as the surrounding skin and differ from herpes lesions, which tend to appear as blisters on the skin.


Intertrigo presents as a red rash on the skin, typically at the fold of the groin. It’s not fungal in nature, and it tends to happen from friction on skin contact. Over time, the affected skin can break down and develop fissures. Some people with intertrigo also deal with secondary infections.


Erythrasma is an infection of the groin and inner thigh. Bacterial in nature, its rash tends to appear brown and flat as opposed to the raised and red appearance of jock itch. 

Read this helpful post to learn more about the difference between UTI and yeast infection.

How to Treat Genital Herpes and Jock Itch

The first step in treating genital herpes and jock itch is to get a rapid STD test to determine what it is you’re dealing with. Once you’ve got your answer, you can begin treatment. 

Most pharmacies offer a number of effective treatments for jock itch. You typically don’t need a doctor’s intervention for these symptoms. Regular treatments of antifungal cream on and around the affected area will usually resolve it. You’ll also want to ensure that your underwear is breathable and that you shower immediately after exercise. 

Treating herpes is a more involved process that can include the application of antiviral medication, and it will require the help of a trained medical professional. The best way to differentiate between the two conditions is to get tested. Also, be sure to report any lesions, burning sensations, or other troubling symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible. 

Some antiviral medications that your doctor might prescribe include acyclovir, valacyclovir, and NSAIDs to help with pain relief. The first two medications can help stop the spread and growth of herpes, and you could see relief in just a few days after treatment.


If you‘re wondering whether what you’re dealing with is jock itch or herpes, your best recourse is to get tested to determine your status. Don’t stay in the dark for any longer than you have to. Get in touch with Rapid STD Testing at (866) 872-1888 to set up an appointment today.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
May 5, 2022

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