The Best At-home Herpes Test - Everything You Need to Know

Key Takeaways

  • Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once infected, the virus remains in your body in a dormant state. It can reactivate up to several times a year. 
  • At-home herpes tests include blood test kits, swab test kits, or blood tests through a diagnostic lab or mobile phlebotomy service like Getlabs. 
  • The most accurate and reliable herpes test of all is having an antibody test with a blood sample that has been drawn from your arm.
  • False-positive tests can happen though they are uncommon. Having a blood test can reduce the risk of a false-positive result.

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once you have become infected, the virus remains in your body in a dormant state. It can reactivate up to several times a year. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, around 11.9 % of people aged 14 to 49 years have an HSV-2 infection. Genital herpes can be contracted by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person.

Symptoms of herpes include:

  • Small white blisters on your genitals
  • Pain and itching in your genital area
  • Genital ulcers
  • Painful urination
  • Flu-like symptoms

Genital herpes can be treated with antiviral medications which alleviate symptoms and shorten an outbreak. If you have genital herpes you should avoid unprotected sex. You should avoid all sexual contact during a breakout. Even if you are not having symptoms, you can still spread the disease.

At-home herpes test kits are available from your local pharmacy, an online retailer, or a diagnostic lab. In this article, we will review home herpes tests, explain how they work, and how to understand your results.

What Is an At-home Herpes Test?

If you don’t want to visit your doctor’s office, you can take a genital herpes test in the privacy of your home. There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV) that you can test for:

  • HSV-1: oral herpes (cold sores)
  • HSV-2: genital herpes

There are three types of at-home herpes tests, all of which test for antibodies in your blood. Your herpes testing options include:

  • Blood test kit: You can purchase a CLIA-approved test kit at your local pharmacy or online retailer. Typically, for this antibody test, you collect a small blood sample using a finger prick. You then mail your sample to a lab and collect your results online within a few days. Some kits test for either HSV-1 or HSV-2, others test for both.
  • Swab test kit: With this type of at-home test kit you will need to take a swab of a visible lesion or blister on your mouth or genitals. You then mail the swab to a lab for testing.
  • Blood test: For this test, you can go to a diagnostic lab or use a mobile sample collection service, such as Getlabs. A phlebotomist will collect a blood sample from you, and it will be analyzed in a lab. You can collect your results from your doctor or via your laboratory's patient portal. This type of blood test gives very accurate results. 

When Should I Consider Getting a Herpes Test?

There are several reasons why you may want to consider taking a test for this type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). These include:

  • Diagnostic: If you are having symptoms and you feel you may have contracted a herpes infection from a sexual partner.
  • Preventative: If your sexual partner has genital herpes, you may wish to get tested regularly to ensure your protection.
  • Screening: You are pregnant and either you or your partner have had previous breakouts of genital herpes. If you test positive for herpes, you may want to get your baby tested. 

How Can I Get a Home Test for Herpes?

You can get a home test kit for genital herpes from your local pharmacy, a diagnostic laboratory, or an online retailer. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with a home sample collection service that will collect your blood and take it to a local lab for testing.

What Should I Do Before My Herpes Test?

Usually, you don’t need to make any special preparations before your herpes blood test. In some cases, particularly if you are having blood drawn for other types of lab tests, your doctor may want you to fast before the test. This means avoiding food and drinking only water.

If you are currently taking antihistamines, your doctor may ask you to stop taking them before the test.

If you are sexually active and you have multiple sexual partners, you may want to test for other common STDs at the same time. For example, you can also take at-home STD tests for gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis C, and chlamydia.

What Should I Do During My Herpes Test?

Getlabs phlebotomists are dedicated to providing a professional and friendly service that will put you at ease. Upon arrival, they will introduce themselves and show you their professional ID. When you invite them into your home, your phlebotomist will show complete respect for your privacy and personal space.

Before taking your blood sample, your phlebotomist will confirm your ID and ask a few questions about your medical history and your general health. They will make sure you are sitting or lying in a comfortable position then examine your arm, to select an appropriate vein. Usually, this will be on your inner forearm. Before inserting the needle, they will sterilize your arm with an antibacterial wipe. 

Your phlebotomist will then insert a fine, sterile needle into your vein, attach a tube and collect the blood sample. Once the sample has been collected, they will remove the needle and ask you to apply a little pressure at the needle site for a moment. They will then apply a bandage to the site. Typically, the blood draw takes less than five minutes to complete. 

If you notice any of the following side effects, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Infection

When Can I Expect to Know My Herpes Test Results?

The time it takes to get your results will vary depending on the laboratory and how many tests you are taking at the same time. Usually, your results will be ready within 2-3 business days. You can get your results from your doctor or via your patient portal. 

How Do I Interpret My Herpes Test Results?

The HSV test is a blood test that checks your blood for antibodies and can help to diagnose an HSV infection and help identify the recurrence of a previous infection. The results are interpreted as follows:

  • Negative: If you have negative results, this means that no antibodies were detected. You have no infection.
  • Positive for HSV-1: If you have positive test results, this means that HSV-1 antibodies were detected. You have an infection of oral herpes.
  • Positive for HSV-2: If you have positive test results, this means that HSV-2 antibodies were detected. You have an infection of genital herpes.

You may have an equivocal result, which means that the results are inconclusive. In this case, your healthcare provider may recommend you take other diagnostic tests or retake the antibody test after a few weeks.

False-positive tests can happen though they are uncommon. Having a blood test can reduce the risk of a false-positive result. 

Are Herpes Home Test Kits Reliable?

Generally, blood tests tend to be more reliable than swab tests. The most accurate and reliable method of all is having an antibody test with a blood sample that has been drawn from your arm.

Test for Herpes and Other STDs at Home with Getlabs

If you’re sexually active, maintaining your sexual health is important. If you’re looking for an accurate and reliable at-home herpes test, Getlabs is your answer.

You can book an appointment online and a phlebotomist will visit your home, collect your sample, and drop it off at a local lab for testing. We also provide other STI testing.

This page is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice regarding any of the tests and conditions referenced above are advised to consult with a licensed clinician. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider regarding a medical condition and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information on this page. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital.

Book an at-home lab collection

Getlabs sends a nearby medical specialist to you to collect your labs for Labcorp and Quest. Available same-day, nationwide.

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