What to Do When You Have Herpetic Whitlow

It can be painful, the recognizable blister in your fingers, that feels like it is throbbing with pain, most times it affects just the tip of your fingers and can also affect any finger

They usually happen after you come in contact with an infected sore and it can be very contagious and also intensely painful

It is caused by the herpes simplex virus, of which there are 2 types, HSV-1 and HSV-2, of which 60% of whitlow cases are caused by 1, and type 2 is responsible for the rest of the remaining whitlow infections

The HSV-1 affects mainly the mouth, lips and face while HSV-2 affects mainly the genitals


What Causes It?

Sometimes when the dead skin at the base of your skin becomes broken and it gets in contact with an infected sore with herpes simplex virus, this virus goes into the skin and within days, you begin to see symptoms, sometimes, even touching an infected lesion on the face of someone or own face can lead to this infection.

Like we said earlier, the herpes virus is responsible, and children who suck their thumbs and have cold sores at the same time could develop this infection

Even touching the genitals of someone who has genital herpes can lead to this condition hence the type 2 of this virus is usually responsible for many of the cases in adults

Both males and females are affected equally, health care workers can easily get it if they are exposed to a lot of these blisters and


It is important to differentiate between herpes and a fungal infection or bacterial infection of the fingers, they look alike, but with bacterial infections, there is usually pus


How Do I Know I Have Herpes?

  • Intense pain of the finger that is affected
  • Swelling or redness of the fingers
  • A blister may form on the fingers
  • When the blister heals, they may form a scab
  • Some people may also have blisters on their genitals or their mouths



How Will It be Treated?

Unfortunately, herpetic whitlow cannot be treated, but it is very unlikely that you will have another case of herpetic whitlow after the first one, though this is still possible

Your doctor may prescribe some antiviral medication after confirming that it is a herpes infection and it is very effective if taken 24 hours after the symptoms first start, pain medications will be given also to help you cope.


What you can do is to:

  • Cover the area with gauze, this helps prevent infections of other places that you might touch with your infected finger, herpetic whitlow is extremely contagious
  • Apply cold cloth or ice over the area
  • Clean the affected area daily
  • Do not wear contact lenses if you have Whitlow, you could infect your eyes, the infection may spread to your eyes
  • The infection will resolve by itself, they almost always do



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