The antiviral drug acyclovir (Zovirax) became available in the 1980s to treat herpes, but it is not a cure, since it does not kill the virus. However, it can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms. Available in ointment, capsule, liquid, and intravenous (IV) forms, capsules are usually used to treat primary genital herpes or a severe recurrence, or to suppress a frequent recurrence. Taking acy-clovir at the first sign of a recurrence—that is, during the tingling phase before lesions begin—can shorten the healing time from four or five days to one day.

People with more than six recurrences in a year can take daily acyclovir to prevent recurrence. Most patients do not take acyclovir for more than three years. Very few people report side effects with this drug.

Intravenous acyclovir is given for severe primary herpes for hospitalized patients, and for babies born with or exposed to herpes during birth.

Symptoms can be eased with frequent sitz baths in lukewarm water. A small amount of petroleum jelly on the sores can reduce the irritation during urination. Very painful sores may be eased with an anesthetic ointment. While sores are present, girls

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