Herpetic whitlow is an infection caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV) that affects the hands; it can either be caused by HSV-1, the cold sore virus, or HSV-2, the genital herpes virus. Medline Plus reports that the condition most commonly affects health care professionals and children, although anyone can become infected. Proper treatment for the condition requires a doctor's visit for diagnosis, followed by the administration of prescription medications.
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Things you need
- Topical and/or oral antiviral medications as prescribed by a doctor
Visit your doctor for a suspected herpes infected finger. According to the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM), symptoms include a burning or tingling feeling in the fingers or thumb, followed by a red rash and blisters that eventually break open and crust over, local pain and, less commonly, fever, swollen lymph nodes and malaise. Your doctor may confirm your diagnosis by taking a sample from an active sore or through blood tests.
Apply a topical medication if one is prescribed by your doctor for management of the first outbreak of herpetic whitlow. According to Merck Manuals, this treatment can shorten the course of the primary outbreak of a herpes infected finger.
Take oral antiviral medications as prescribed by your doctor at the beginning of future outbreaks. The advantage of visiting a doctor for this condition is that prescription medications can be on hand to manage future symptoms. As with other herpetic conditions, beginning antiviral treatments shortly after the development of symptoms is key in limiting the length and severity of an outbreak.
Take over-the-counter painkillers to manage pain associated with herpetic whitlow. The USACHPPM recommends consulting a doctor before beginning medication for pain management of a herpes infected finger.
Managing Herpes Whitlow
Tips and warnings
- Be careful not to touch others with a herpes infected finger during an outbreak. You should also exercise caution when touching other parts of your body during an outbreak, as you risk spreading the infection.
- No treatment can cure herpes infections, including whitlow. However, people tend to have fewer herpes outbreaks over time.
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