It is completely natural to have blemishes like pimples on body parts other than your face. Still, if a zit appears on or around your genitals, it would be understandable if you have a moment of panic that you’ve contracted herpes.

You may have nothing to fear. When in doubt, the best policy is to consult your doctor, but pimples and the sores associated with herpes often show up with different features. You could feel around or use a mirror to get a closer look and put your mind at ease.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe the typical symptoms of genital herpes as “one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal.”

Those blisters in the outbreak will be white, the Mayo Clinic says, or you could instead have small red bumps. After the blisters rupture “and ooze or bleed,” they will scab over as the site heals.

If you can stomach it, the group Living with Genital Herpes has a photo roundup that compares classic herpes blisters to pimples, pimples with an ingrown hair, various bug bites and razor burn.

“When a strange bump suddenly shows up in the genital area,” the website says, “the first thought that comes to the minds of most sexually active people is whether it’s a sexually transmitted disease and they want to know if that little bump is a sign of something worse than a pimple.” Waiting a short time to see how the bump progresses may help: “At some point genital herpes blisters do resemble pimples but more often than not, it will not take very long before it becomes clear and hard to make that mistake.”

And unlike other blemishes, herpes may come with other bodily symptoms. If it’s your first outbreak, the symptoms might come with fever, aches and swollen glands, similar to what you would experience having the flu. In subsequent outbreaks, there could be “burning, tingling and itching where the infection first entered your body” as well as pain in your lower half, according to the Mayo Clinic. “However, recurrences are generally less painful than the original outbreak, and sores generally heal more quickly.”

If you do think you have herpes, try not to touch. The Mayo Clinic says if you then scratch another part of your body, you could spread your infection — even to your eyes.

However, according to the CDC, there are people who have genital herpes but don’t know it because their symptoms are so mild.

If you haven’t had sexual contact, the chances of genital herpes are slim. The Mayo Clinic explains, “Because the virus dies quickly outside of the body, it's nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person.”

See also:

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