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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Herpes, Towels and Transmission

Many people are rather concerned about transmitting the herpes virus to a family or household member. In regard to showering when you have a sore. What I have always done in the past and even tend to do it this way anyway, is to wash all non-outbreak areas first with typical soap and water, then follow the "proper" way to towel off. 

The proper way would be: dry your face first, then your arms, belly, legs then private parts and then feet (do the "clean" parts first then the "dirty" parts last). It's just like washing a baby if you ever had that demonstrated to you. If you have an active lesion - dry it off last (or even not at all - let fresh air do it for you!). If you use the same washcloth on your face as the rest of your body be sure to wash your face first, then your private parts. Once the washcloth is cool and dry any active virus on it is dead. The skin on our bodies is generally too thick for the virus to be that easily spread to other body parts. After your primary infection your body develops protective antibodies to help protect the rest of your body from herpes.

If you have more than one person in your household, then everyone should have their own towel, washcloth, toothbrush and razor and not share them anyway. It's for more of the risk of transmission of other germs/bacteria than herpes. The chances of transmitting through shared towel use are just theoretical anyways. Towels and washclothes stay wet and warm longer than other surfaces. You can still all share the same bar of soap in the shower too, due to the fats in the soap easily inactivate. So don't be afraid to share the family bar of soap in the shower as it is safe to share it.

If you're worried about others in your household catching it from your towel which might have been left lying around in the bathroom or laundry area, then once the towel is dry there's no chance of transmission anyways - the virus likes body temperature and once it gets cooler than that it starts to break down and isn't likely to be transmitted and dies within several hours.

You get herpes from direct skin on skin contact with someone who was infected with herpes. It is transmitted thru direct skin on skin contact with the genital area - routine day to day contact won't transmit it. It doesn't float thru water, get transmitted thru toilet seats or survive the laundry to infect anyone. the virus - it's very easily killed with soap and water.

Don't sweat it if you find out one of your family members use your towel/washcloth someday, because again, as soon as it's cool the virus becomes unstable and isn't going to be transmitted. The infected person would almost have to vigorously rub their towel over an open lesion and then hand it to someone and then they vigorously rub the same section of the towel on their genitals to transmit it that way which I don't think is going to happen so don't worry about it.

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