The 3 Best At-Home Herpes Tests of 2022
- Also Known As:
- Herpes Test
- At-Home Herpes Test
- Herpes Type 1 Test
- Herpes Type 2 Test
Test Quick Guide
Genital and oral herpes are common viral infections caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). They are two of eight types of herpes viruses. HSVs are transmitted easily through skin-to-skin and sexual contact, as well as saliva. It can spread even when symptoms are not present.
After an initial herpes outbreak, HSV remains in the body and becomes inactive, also called dormant or latent, and does not cause symptoms. If the virus becomes active again, patients experience an outbreak of lesions or sores at the same site as the initial infection.
To determine if you have herpes, there are a few different tests available. But getting tested for Herpes tends to be something people might feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about because of the stigma attached to sexually transmitted diseases. That’s why for some, at-home testing can be a good solution.
“Ordering a test online can be a good option if you’re concerned about your privacy and the availability of the tests,” says Dr. Edward Salko, a board-certified physician and the Medical Director of Personalabs. “It bypasses a visit to a physician and having a doctor order the lab test for you.”
And if you use an at-home test kit, you can even avoid going to a lab as well. At-home tests use a blood sample to detect antibodies associated with an HSV infection. This can provide information about whether you have ever had an infection with the two main types of HSV.
Just be aware that in most cases, at-home herpes blood testing cannot definitively show whether you have an active herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. Physician-ordered testing is often necessary to confirm a diagnosis of genital or oral herpes.
The Best At-Home Herpes Tests Compared
|Test||Price||Type||Tests for:||Results in:||Insurance accepted?||Who should use it:|
|LetsGetChecked – Herpes Test – best overall||$119 (Save 25% with code TESTING25)||Self-collection blood||
||2 to 5 days||No||Anyone exposed to a herpes-infected partner, or if you have symptoms.|
|myLAB Box – At-Home Herpes Test – best for discreet shipping||$89||Self-collection blood||
||2 to 5 days||No||Those who want to test for herpes discreetly, with an option for physician follow-up if positive.|
|Health Testing Centers Herpes Type 2 Test Kit – best for clear instructions||$89||Self-collection blood||
||3 to 4 days||No||People who want an easy herpes testing process from start to finish.|
About At-Home Herpes Tests
Purpose of at-home herpes tests
The purpose of at-home testing for genital and oral herpes is to look for evidence of past exposure to HSV and cannot distinguish between past and present HSV infections.
Knowing whether a patient has had an HSV infection can play a role in diagnosis, prevention, and screening for herpes simplex viruses and their potential complications.
Types of herpes simplex viruses
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses:
- Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1): HSV-1 often causes cold sores or fever blisters on the lips or around the mouth and are common symptoms of an oral herpes infection. This type of HSV can be seen in children as well as adults.
- Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2): HSV-2 is the usual cause of genital herpes and is classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The CDC has estimated that one of every six people between the ages of 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.
Although HSV-2 is most often associated with genital herpes, both types of HSV can cause an oral or genital infection.
Types of at-home herpes tests
There are different ways that an at-home blood test for oral and gentical herpes may be used:
- Diagnosis: For people with active lesions or sores, direct testing of a sample taken from the lesion is the preferred diagnostic test and must be ordered by a doctor. However, when no active lesion is available to be tested, an at-home blood test can provide information about whether past symptoms could have been caused by HSV. Confirmation of HSV infection performed by a doctor may be required after an at-home test.
- Prevention: An at-home test can help determine if you are a carrier of HSV. If results are negative, an at-home test can help you understand that you may be susceptible to infection. In this way, testing may be used as part of a broader STD screening process.
- Screening: Blood testing may influence prevention or treatment for people who are at a higher risk of developing complications from an HSV infection.
What do the tests measure?
At-home genital and oral herpes testing detects antibodies to the herpes simplex virus. Antibodies are produced by a person’s immune system to defend the body against a potentially harmful substance, called an antigen.
Antibodies to HSV are only present in patients who have been infected with HSV at some point in their life. At-home genital and oral herpes tests cannot distinguish between a new or recent infection and an infection that occured in the past.
Antibodies to HSV are specific to the type of HSV and develop within a few weeks of being exposed to the virus but may take longer depending on the type of herpes. Antibodies to HSV remain in the body indefinitely. Some at-home kits test for only one type of herpes while others test for both HSV-1 and HSV2.
After a person’s first outbreak of genital or oral herpes, the virus initially infects a person’s skin cells and eventually moves to their nerve cells. The virus may stay inactive in the nerve cells forever without causing another outbreak, or it may become active again in the future.
How do at-home herpes tests work?
At-home herpes tests usually just require a couple of drops of blood. You’ll get a test kit in the mail that will have a lancet to do a finger prick, as well as items to collect and protect your sample. Most labs send you detailed instructions and a prepaid shipping package to mail back your sample.
Which at-home herpes test should you choose?
At-home herpes tests can help confirm that you have herpes. Though it may not be as accurate as a full in-person blood test in a lab, it could be a good option for someone who is hesitant or unable to see a doctor or visit a lab in person. In choosing a herpes test, you might want to find one that tests for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, has discreet packaging.
Benefits and Downsides of At-Home Herpes Tests
To decide if at-home genital and oral herpes testing is right for you, it’s important to remember that this form of testing has both benefits and downsides.
Benefits of at-home genital and oral herpes testing include:
- Transparent pricing: Costs can add up quickly when patients have testing performed in a doctor’s office or other medical facility. At-home testing offers transparent pricing that allows patients to rest assured that they understand the total price of genital and oral herpes testing.
- Privacy: At-home testing is private and convenient. Patients can order an at-home genital and oral herpes test kit when they want without having to make an appointment at a medical office or clinic.
- Easy to use: Testing for antibodies to HSV at home is a straightforward and simple process: order your test kit online, collect a small sample of blood from a simple finger prick using supplies contained in the test kit, and return your sample to the laboratory. Unlike testing performed by a doctor, there’s no waiting room or blood draw from your arm.
The downsides of at-home genital and oral herpes testing include:
- Limited test options: At-home genital and oral herpes tests only detect antibodies to HSV. There are several other types of tests for HSV available through a doctor’s office or laboratory. In addition to antibody tests, doctors can order a herpes viral culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, or a Tzanck smear. These tests are more accurate but also take more time to get results and are more expensive to perform.
- Unable to distinguish past and present infection: An at-home test cannot tell you when you were infected with an HSV infection, which limits its role as a diagnostic test for active symptoms. In fact, it can take a week or more for an initial antibody response and eventually reaches a peak in 2-4 weeks. Therefore, an at-home test may come back negative if you have recently contracted oral or genital herpes.
- Not recommended by experts: According to the CDC, there is no evidence that screening people without symptoms of HSV is beneficial. Testing does not appear to change sexual behavior or reduce the spread of this virus. Experts warn that the emotional harm and stigma associated with having genital or oral herpes outweighs the potential benefits of screening.
- Risks of false-positive results: False-positive test results occur when a test incorrectly gives a positive result despite the patient not having the condition. While false positive results are possible in many herpes tests, inaccurate results can carry more risks in conditions like herpes that are incurable, life-long, and may carry stigma.
As you consider the benefits and downsides of at-home genital and oral herpes testing, it may be helpful to talk with a doctor or other health professional about testing for HSV in your specific case. It is especially important to talk with a doctor if you have active symptoms of a herpes infection.
The Best At-Home Herpes Tests
There are many different types of at-home herpes tests available, and it’s important to consider what type of herpes testing you’re looking for when selecting an at-home herpes test. The following sections provide information about top picks for at-home herpes testing:
At-home herpes tests were reviewed based on value, convenience, and availability of tests. These overall factors are based on data including price, insurance acceptance, comprehensiveness of tests, and how quickly you can get results and speak to a doctor. Herpes test selections have been screened by Testing.com’s Medical Review Board.
|Price:||$119 (Save 25% with code TESTING25)|
|Tests for:||Herpes Simplex Virus types 1 and 2|
|Results timeline:||2 to 5 days|
|Accuracy:||CLIA approved and CAP-accredited labs are used, and
sample collection kits are manufactured in an ISO 13485 accredited facility.
|Physician follow up:||Follow up with nurses available|
|Prescriptions offered:||Possible, depending on your state|
LetsGetChecked offers one of the few at-home options to test for two herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1, most often associated with oral herpes, and HSV-2, generally associated with genital herpes. This comprehensive approach, combined with their quick results, makes the Herpes Test from LetsGetChecked our pick for the best overall at-home herpes test.
The test kit provides everything you need to collect a small sample of blood at home, place it into a tube, and send it back to a CLIA-approved lab to be analyzed.
Once your sample arrives at one of LetsGetChecked’s partner labs, it’s tested for both HSV-1 and HSV-2. You can view your results in your secure online account within 2 to 5 days, though some users report that they had trouble accessing their results.
If your test results are positive for HSV-1 or HSV-2, you can speak with a nurse at LetsGetChecked 24/7 to answer your questions and provide treatment recommendations.
|What’s great about LetsGetChecked’s herpes test?||What’s not so great?|
Why is LetsGetChecked’s at-home herpes test the best overall?
LetsGetChecked tests for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, and has a good reputation for strong customer service and follow-up support with a nurse. This provides patients with a bit more peace of mind throughout the process.
Who should use LetsGetChecked’s at-home herpes test?
Anyone who wants to get tested for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 discreetly at home can get it done with this one test.
Best for Discreet Shipping
|Tests for:||Herpes Simplex Virus 2|
|Results timeline:||2 to 5 days|
|Accuracy:||CAP and CLIA certified|
|Physician follow up:||Follow up with physician available|
The At-Home Herpes Test from myLAB Box is our top pick for discreet shipping. Test kits are shipped in inconspicuous packaging and include a low-profile return envelope. Shipping is also fast and free in both directions.
Testing for HSV-2 is simple with myLAB Box. Order your test kit online, collect a blood sample at home, and return your sample to the lab. If you test positive, myLAB Box will provide a free phone consultation with a physician to discuss your results. The benefit of this is that they can call in a prescription for you to get you started on treatment.
Testing at myLAB Box is conducted at CLIA-certified laboratories that are qualified to perform high-complexity clinical testing. In 2-5 days, you will receive an email with a link to where you can access your results on myLAB Box’s secure online portal.
Note: These tests are temporarily not available in New York state.
|What’s great about myLAB Box’s herpes Test?||What’s not so great?|
Why is myLAB Box’s at-home herpes test the best for discreet shipping?
In most cases, if you’re ordering an at-home herpes test, it’s because your privacy is important to you. myLAB Box’s shipping materials did the best job at keeping things discreet.
Who should use myLAB Box’s at-home herpes test?
If you are sexually active, you and a new partner may want to test together.
Best for Clear Instructions
|Price:||$89 for HSV-2|
|Tests for:||Herpes Simplex Virus 2|
|Results timeline:||3 to 4 days|
|Physician follow up:||Follow up with physician if you test positive|
While many at-home testing companies don’t offer written instructions before your test kit arrives, Health Testing Centers provides clear, detailed and illustrated test instructions on their user-friendly website. The instructions also include helpful tips for successful sample collection, making the Herpes Type 2 Test Kit from Health Testing Centers our selection for clearest instructions.
After placing an order online, your test kit is sent out. It will arrive with all of the supplies needed to collect a blood sample. Start by filling out your personal information on the test kit and reading the provided instructions. Then wash your hands and clean your fingertip using an alcohol pad.
The test kit includes a lancet, blood card, biohazard bag and shipping package. After collecting your sample, allow the blood card to dry on a flat surface for 15 minutes. Then close the blood card and place it in the biohazard bag. Your sample is now ready to return to the laboratory for testing. The lab will make your results available three to four days after they receive the sample.
If you test positive, a complimentary physician consultation will be provided by a third party physician as well as a prescription if deemed necessary. For other inquiries, there is a toll-free hotline.
|What’s great about Health Testing Centers’ herpes test?||What’s not so great?|
Why is Health Testing Centers’ at-home herpes test the best for clear instructions?
The website and test kits give users step-by-step text and illustration instructions to ensure that the blood collection process is done correctly.
Who should use Health Testing Centers’ at-home herpes test?
Anyone who wants to test for HSV-2, and have access to a physician if they test positive, will find this to be a good choice.
Interpreting At-Home Test Results
The results of at-home genital and oral herpes testing detail whether antibodies to HSV were detected in the blood sample used for testing. A patient’s test report may describe results as negative, positive, or inconclusive.
A positive test result means that antibodies to HSV were found in the sample. This result means that a patient was infected with HSV at some point. A test for HSV antibodies cannot tell if they are having a current outbreak or if the virus is dormant. Blood antibody testing also cannot determine if an infection is oral or genital.
A negative result means that antibodies to HSV were not found in the test sample. There are several potential causes of a negative test result:
- The patient has never been infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2
- A patient’s HSV infection is too recent. If infection occurred before the body was able to produce sufficient antibodies for a positive test result, typically within a couple of weeks to three months, the test may return a false negative result.
An inconclusive result may occur if the finger isn’t sufficiently disinfected or if an inadequate amount of blood sample is collected.
An at-home genital and oral herpes test report may also include information about the type of antibodies detected in the blood sample. Determining whether a patient’s infection was caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 can help guide a patient’s medical care.
Are test results accurate?
Testing is an important step in accurately diagnosing genital and oral herpes, and there are several types of tests that may be used to establish a diagnosis. Although blood antibody testing is appropriate for some patients, it’s not considered the most accurate way of diagnosing a current HSV infection. Experts have several concerns about using blood testing to diagnose genital and oral herpes:
- Accuracy of tests vary: Not all commercially available blood tests that detect antibodies to HSV have the same level of accuracy due to shared characteristics of the different types of herpesviruses. For example, persons who were infected with the chickenpox/shingles virus may have a higher risk of false positive results.
- Not all tests describe the type of HSV: Some blood tests cannot tell the difference between antibodies to HSV-1 and antibodies to HSV-2, so they require additional laboratory testing to determine the kind of antibody detected.
- Can’t tell between genital and oral infections: Unlike tests that require a sample taken during an outbreak, blood antibody tests cannot distinguish between a genital (HSV-2) and oral (HSV-1) infections because either can be found at both sites, so at-home tests alone cannot diagnose genital or oral herpes.
Although there are drawbacks to at-home genital and oral herpes tests, there are situations in which blood antibody testing may be appropriate. Patients interested in at-home genital and oral herpes testing should talk to their doctor about their individual circumstances and the accuracy of test results.
Do I need follow-up tests?
Follow-up testing may be necessary to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of genital or oral herpes. In general, confirmation testing using a different laboratory method than the first test is recommended after HSV antibody testing conducted with a blood sample.
If a patient receives a negative test result but has symptoms that are suggestive of genital or oral herpes, doctors may recommend additional testing. This also applies to patients who may have been exposed to HSV within the previous 12 weeks or before sufficient antibodies can develop in the body.
For patients who receive a positive test result, additional testing may be needed if the original blood antibody test didn’t identify the type of HSV causing a patient’s infection.
If a patient is confirmed to have genital or oral herpes, their doctor may recommend treatment. While there is no cure for an HSV infection, treatment for herpes can reduce outbreaks and decrease the likelihood of spreading HSV to sexual partners. For most, HSV infections may result in only minor health problems, but for some, significant complications may occur.
Questions for your doctor after at-home testing
The following questions about the results of at-home genital and oral herpes testing may be helpful for patients to discuss with their doctor:
- Is my at-home herpes test result reliable?
- What is the most likely explanation for my test result?
- Are there any follow-up tests that you recommend?
- How should I discuss my test result with sexual partners?
Comparing and contrasting laboratory and at-home herpes testing
There are significant differences between genital and oral herpes tests conducted at-home and those ordered by a doctor.
Several important tests used to diagnose genital and oral herpes are not available as at-home tests. Herpes viral cultures and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, both of which are only conducted in-lab, are the preferred tests for patients during a genital or oral herpes outbreak.
Although in-lab testing is more appropriate for most patients, it can be inconvenient and may cost more than at-home testing.
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