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By: RSC Editorial Team

February 1, 2023

Why Am I So Tired During a Herpes Outbreak?

Herpes is a widespread sexually transmitted disease (STD) that comes from the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which spreads through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Herpes doesn’t have a cure and outbreaks can happen multiple times a year, depending on the person and whether they seek medical treatment.

If you have herpes, you might experience flu-like symptoms during an outbreak, but some people experience no symptoms. For those that have symptoms, they might worry whether their experience is normal, asking questions like “Why am I so tired during a herpes outbreak?” and “Can herpes make you tired?”

Our team at Rapid STD Testing can help you learn more about STDs like herpes, including typical symptoms and available treatments. If you haven’t received a herpes diagnosis but are experiencing the symptoms, you can get a secure, low-key rapid STD test using our site.

Keep reading to learn more about how herpes affects your body during an outbreak.

Does Herpes Weaken Your Immune System? 

Herpes has a complex relationship with the immune system, but research hasn’t concluded whether the virus weakens it or not. In fact, some evidence suggests herpes can boost your immune response. The herpes virus wants you to stay alive, so it might stimulate your immune system to attack other viruses.

While it might not weaken your immune system, herpes does play tricks on your body’s natural response to harmful foreign bodies in order to stay in your system. 

Typically, when a virus finds its way into your body, your immune system deploys an army of T-cells to destroy infected cells and eradicate the virus. Herpes, specifically HSV-1, infiltrates cells in a way that prevents them from detecting the infection, allowing the virus to live in your body for years under the radar.

When the herpes virus “wakes up” from its latency in your cells, you might start to exhibit symptoms and become contagious. At this stage, your immune system will attempt to destroy the virus, causing inflammation and the fever blisters that are characteristic of the herpes viruses.

Can You Be Immune to Herpes?

The short answer is no, you can’t develop immunity to herpes. Some people assume that if they’ve had cold sores in the past, they build a defense against genital herpes. Unfortunately, even if you have HSV-1, which typically causes cold sores, you can still contract HSV-2, the virus that causes genital blisters.

While some people who have herpes might not display any symptoms, such as the painful lesions that appear on the mouth or genitals, the virus still lives in their bodies. In some cases, a person can carry the virus for years without realizing they have a herpes infection. The “sneakiness” of the virus is one reason why people transmit it to their partners so easily.

What Should You Expect if You Have Herpes?

Many people with herpes have no symptoms or only experience mild reactions, but the response to the virus varies from person to person. Typically, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe, and it happens one to two weeks after infection.

Common herpes symptoms during your first outbreak include:

  • Painful blisters
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in groin
  • Painful urination 

During your primary outbreak, you might feel like you have the flu, with symptoms of herpes outbreak fatigue including fever, chills, aches, and tiredness. Future outbreaks are usually less severe and last a shorter time. Less common symptoms of herpes are nausea, vomiting, headache, and difficulty urinating.

For women, genital herpes blisters can appear on the vagina, vulva, buttocks, anus, and thighs. Men could find lesions on the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks, and thighs. The blisters can become painful but typically heal in two to three weeks.

The sores appear wherever the virus enters your body, usually from skin contact during sexual activities. If you touch the sores and then another part of your body, such as your fingers or eyes, you could spread the infection to that area. 

While both viruses cause herpes, the symptoms of HSV-1 and HSV-2 are slightly different. 

  • HSV-1 – the most common symptom of HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, is cold sores around your mouth and lips. They can also develop inside the mouth, but it’s less likely. The sores can last for a few weeks, and you might experience stinging, burning, or tingling. Sometimes, they cause pain when eating or drinking.

    Does herpes cause body aches? Yes; oral herpes can cause flu-like symptoms during the initial outbreak, and it’s possible to transmit the virus to other parts of your body, such as your genitals and eyes. Symptoms of herpes in your eyes include pain, redness, blurry vision, and sensitivity to light.


  • HSV-2 – genital blisters are the most obvious symptoms of HSV-2, which cause itchiness, genital pain, painful urination, and difficulty urinating. Women might experience vaginal discharge similar to a yeast infection, while men might exhibit symptoms that feel like jock itch. HSV-2 causes similar general symptoms to HSV-1, including fever, body aches, etc.

Stages of Infection

The following are the stages of a herpes infection:

  • Primary stage – the first stage of a herpes infection might begin within a few days of contracting the virus or weeks later. Usually, the first sign is a group of small and painful blisters appearing on your genitals or surrounding areas. The red blisters contain clear or cloudy liquid and break open, forming sores.
  • Latent stage – the virus becomes inactive, hiding in the nerves near your spine until reactivation. During this stage, you won’t see blisters, sores, or any other symptoms of herpes. The latent stage can last years, leading people to falsely believe they aren’t contagious or that they developed immunity to the virus.
  • Recurrences – when herpes becomes active after being dormant, the outbreak is known as a recurrence. Recurrences are generally milder. Blisters might appear in the same areas as the first outbreak or other areas, even if there was no sexual contact on that part of your body.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of herpes, it’s important to get tested and contact your medical provider for treatment. Rapid STD Testing offers hassle-free same-day STD testing.

What Triggers Herpes Outbreaks?

Triggers of herpes outbreaks might not be the same for everyone, and it’s not clear whether a person’s lifestyle affects the frequency of recurrences and their symptoms. It’s best to work with your healthcare provider to identify your triggers and make a plan to prevent them if possible. 

The following are common triggers of herpes outbreaks:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Hormonal changes
  • Illness
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sexual intercourse

Some people with herpes find that sex can trigger outbreaks because of the friction irritating the skin, but water-based lubricant might reduce irritation. As if the debilitating abdominal pain isn’t enough, women might experience herpes outbreaks triggered by the hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle. 

Illnesses, like the common cold, and prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause oral herpes outbreaks, but usually not genital herpes. A weakened immune system due to surgery or chemotherapy can cause more frequent outbreaks

If you feel like you’re constantly tired during a herpes outbreak or wonder “does herpes make you feel weak?”, you might be experiencing a symptom of herpes or the trigger that caused the attack. Typically, fatigue is most common during the initial onset of herpes, when you might feel like you have the flu.

However, fatigue might be one of your triggers for herpes outbreaks. Whether you’re pulling all-nighters for school or working long hours at your job, your lack of sleep could be contributing to your herpes symptoms. Getting a good night's sleep consistently can help keep outbreaks at bay. 

The next time you have a herpes outbreak, consider your activities and schedule leading up to the outbreak. Was your immune system weakened? Were you overly stressed or tired? Learning your triggers can help you avoid them in the future. 

What You Can Do During an Outbreak

While a cure for herpes doesn’t exist, you can still ease your symptoms with some self-care at home. For the safety of you, your sexual partner, and anyone else you come into contact with, you should avoid touching any people or items without washing your hands with soap and water beforehand. Try to avoid touching your blisters and sores as much as possible. 

The following can help relieve pain and speed up the healing of your herpes lesions:

  • Take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.
  • Apply a cool compress to your sores.
  • Wash the sores with soap and water, then gently pat dry.
  • Wear loose-fitting, underwear and pants.
  • Don’t use bandages on your sores.
  • Don’t soak in a bathtub.
  • Don’t use lotion or ointment unless your doctor prescribed it.

Your medical provider might prescribe antiviral medicine to help your pain and discomfort and reduce the frequency and duration of outbreaks. 

Taking care of your overall wellness can minimize the risk of outbreaks in the future. A few ways to safeguard your health and avoid herpes symptoms include:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Try to keep stress levels low
  • Avoid extreme weather
  • Wear sunscreen

Staying on top of your sexual health is also essential. You can get a 10-panel STD test from Rapid STD Testing to ensure you have no lingering health issues that could exacerbate your symptoms.

Don’t Let Herpes Wear You Out – Get Tested For HSV-1 and HSV-2

For some people, herpes doesn’t cause symptoms often (if at all), and they only have to worry about preventing infection. For others, herpes outbreaks lead them to wonder, “Why am I so tired during a herpes outbreak?”

The first step to dealing with herpes is getting tested. With Rapid STD Testing, you can order tests online or visit a local test center for fast and private STD testing. 

For answers to your other questions, such as “how long does a herpes test take?”, check out our blog or call us at 866-872-1888.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
February 1, 2023

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