How Can You Tell If You Have Herpes Vs. A Pimple

Despite safe sex being taught nationwide, the rates of contracting an STD remain high. In fact, according to a study cited by the STD Center, the likelihood of men contracting genital herpes is 1.5 out of 10,000 encounters; for women, the number is higher, at 8.9 per 10,000.

While that figure isn't too high, it's enough to be concerned. So, of course, use protection, but that's only one step towards practicing safe sex. Another is getting tested and being aware of your body. That includes taking notice of that strange bump on your lip. Is that a pimple? Or is it something more concerning, like herpes?

According to Allure, pay attention to the symptoms of the mysterious bump. Sejal Smith, a New York City-based dermatologist, explained to the outlet that you will experience "tingling, itching, or burning in the area before the blisters appear" when you have a cold sore. You will suffer from this prodromal phase of the herpes simplex virus, when you'll experience physical symptoms before the sore appears. That helps differentiate herpes from pimples.

Additionally, per Healthline, pimples are not painful unless you put pressure on them; irritable maybe, but you should not experience any pain. Herpes sores will come with clusters and are filled with clear fluid. If said sore breaks, fluid will spurt off, adding more to your discomfort and pain, Healthline added.

How to treat pimples vs. cold sores

Treating a pimple versus a cold sore is drastically different, as a cold sore is a virus. For pimples, the treatment is relatively simple. Healthline reported you can treat acne with a variety of at-home remedies including washing the pimple with antibacterial soap, using topical antibacterial cream, or diluting tea tree oil and applying it on the infected area.

Cold sores are a bit more complicated. According to Allure, no at-home remedies will remove the sore, as it is a virus. "Cold sores can be treated with over-the-counter antiviral medications like Abreva," Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said. "There are actually medications by mouth that you can take at the first symptom of burning and stinging, which prevent the cold store from developing, to begin with."

While it might feel embarrassing to have a cold sore (and even a pimple), you shouldn't be. Both bumps are extremely common; the STD Center reports that in 2012, 14.4% of Americans had herpes. That said, it's important to not your shame discourage you from seeking treatment, whether it's acne or an STD. And, as you can guess, never (and we mean never) pop the bump. It'll lead to only more problems in the future.