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Genital herpes is caused by two viruses called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

In the United States, 11.9% of people 14 to 49 have HSV-2. However, the number of people with genital herpes is likely higher since genital herpes can be caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.

If you haven’t experienced an initial outbreak, the best time to get tested for herpes is 12 days after exposure since the incubation period is 2 to 12 days.

This means herpes may not be detectable for up to 12 days after you’re exposed to it.

You can schedule an in-person appointment with a doctor, who can use a few different tests to determine your diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • viral culture test
  • virus antigen detection test
  • antibody test
  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test

An at-home test, on the other hand, can be done by yourself in private.

You can order a herpes test kit online — which may include a swab test or finger prick blood test — and send the sample back in the mail. Most companies will send your results within 5 days.

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can contract it by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the STI.

HSV-1 can also cause oral herpes, which may lead to sores or blisters around the mouth. You can contract oral herpes by kissing or engaging in oral sex with someone who already has it.

Some cases of oral herpes (HSV-1) can lead to genital herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2) since the virus can spread from the saliva of someone with the infection into your body through oral sex.

It generally takes anywhere from 4 to 7 days for herpes symptoms to appear. In addition to sores or blisters — which are called herpes lesions — around your mouth or genitals, other possible symptoms may include:

  • pain during urination
  • itching
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes

Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all, but they can still transmit the infection to others.

When researching at-home herpes tests, we looked for options with fast and accurate results and excellent customer feedback to compile our list of best buys.

Here are the criteria we considered:

  • Popularity: We included tests purchased by hundreds, if not thousands, of customers.
  • Reviews: All products have an excellent average customer rating from people who are happy with their experience.
  • Privacy protocols: Medical information must be private and compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), so all the companies we considered have strict policies in place.
  • Results: We included services that offer fast, digital results within 5 days or less that people can access easily through a digital platform.
  • Accuracy: We only considered products with a high accuracy rate.
  • Value: We looked for services that provide the best bang for your buck.
  • Company reputation and transparency: We only included products from trusted brands that our team has vetted. This means there’s been no recent recalls or lawsuits, and the products meet our business standards and align with our approach to well-being.

FYI: We did include a couple of options that may call for you to leave home to pick up your test kit, so they may not fall 100% into the at-home category. But they are solid options, nonetheless.

Best budget option

myLAB Box

  • Price: $89
  • Results in: online results in 2 to 5 days
  • Collection method: finger prick
  • Type of sample: blood
  • Follow-up care: physician consultation for positive results

With a finger prick, myLAB Box’s at-home genital herpes test is pretty straightforward. Online lab results are provided within 2 to 5 days.

When you order a kit, you’ll receive materials to take your finger prick sample in discreet packaging. It also comes with simple instructions and a prepaid envelope to send the sample off for testing.

If your results are positive, you can schedule a free consultation with one of myLAB Box’s physicians. The company works with labs that are certified by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Act of 1988 (CLIA) and College of American Pathologists (CAP). Plus, the website itself is HIPAA compliant.

Testing is not yet available in New York. The company is waiting for its state application to be approved.

Pros

  • easy collection
  • discreet
  • no need to leave home

Cons

  • not available in New York
  • results may take up to 5 days

Best report

Everlywell

  • Price: $149
  • Results in: online results in 2 to 5 days
  • Collection method: finger prick and vaginal swab or urine sample
  • Type of sample: blood, vaginal swab, urine
  • Follow-up care: physician consultation for positive results

For $169, people with a vagina can test for seven common STIs at once, including HSV-2. Tests require both a finger prick and a vaginal swab because the test is for various STIs.

For the same price, people with a penis can also test for herpes by purchasing the company’s STD Test for Men. It looks for the same seven STIs as the other test. Sample types include a finger prick and a urine sample instead of a vaginal swab.

The kit includes prepaid shipping both ways, digital results, and detailed instructions. Once your kit arrives, you’ll need to register it on Everlywell’s website using the unique ID number included in your box.

In your kit, you’ll receive all you need to collect a finger prick sample and either a vaginal swab packet or a urine cup and urine sample tube.

After shipping your sample, you’ll receive digital results on your account within a few days. If your results are positive, a board certified physician in your state will contact you at no additional cost to discuss your case and prescribe medication if necessary. Everlywell will also send you a personalized report detailing what STI you may have.

The site is HIPAA compliant and physician reviewed. This means your information is kept private, and medical information is approved by independent, board certified healthcare professionals.

Pros

  • tests for a range of STIs
  • simple, at-home testing
  • free physician follow-up if positive

Cons

  • high price point
  • must take own samples

Best in-person testing option

Priority STD

  • Price: $99
  • Results in: online results in 24 to 72 hours
  • Collection method: urine and blood sample
  • Type of sample: urine and blood sample
  • Follow-up care: physician consultation and treatment available for positive results

Priority STD has ​​a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot with more than 2,000 reviews.

You can order the Priority STD individual herpes test online or by phone, which normally requires a waiting period of at least 12 days after exposure.

After scheduling an order, you’ll be directed to find a lab near you. There are more than 4,000 labs to choose from, and you can use the site’s online scheduling system to make an appointment.

STI test results are processed online through a secure patient login, typically within 1 to 3 days after collection.

Pros

  • excellent reviews
  • fast results
  • no need to take your own samples

Cons

  • must visit clinic in person

Best for fast results

STD Check

  • Price: $45 (or $90 for HSV-1 and HSV-2)
  • Results in: online results in 1 to 2 days
  • Collection method: blood draw
  • Type of sample: blood
  • Follow-up care: phone consultation with a doctor for positive test results

STD Check has more than 4,500 testing sites nationwide. You can choose an individual test like HSV-1 or HSV-2 for $45 each. You can also order a 10-test panel, which includes the most common STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

The company is known for fast test results, which are sent to your online account in 1 to 2 days.

Once you complete your order online, you can select a local testing center based on your ZIP code. According to the company, in-person tests only take 5 minutes.

Your test and results will be completely ​​confidential. If your test results are positive, a physician can answer questions about your diagnosis.

Pros

  • accessible price point
  • physician to answer questions
  • fast results

Cons

  • must visit clinic
  • labs not available in all locations
  • doesn’t accept insurance

Best herpes test subscription

LetsGetChecked

  • Price: $119 (or $83 monthly for subscription)
  • Results in: online results in 2 to 5 days
  • Collection method: finger prick
  • Type of sample: blood
  • Follow-up care: phone consultation with clinical team

When you join the LetsGetChecked subscription service, testing is easy and convenient as you receive everything you need to take your sample in a discrete kit through the mail. Plus, you’ll save 30% on the full price of the kits.

There are also helpful videos on the website that explain the instructions in clear, straightforward language so you can be confident you’re taking your sample correctly.

As with all other testing services on our list, LetsGetChecked is privacy and HIPAA compliant. Your results will be available online in 2 to 5 days. Should your results be positive, you can contact one of the nursing team who can help you determine a treatment plan.

Pros

  • convenient
  • fast results
  • substantial savings with subscription

Cons

  • doesn’t accept insurance

PriceCollectionLab visit requiredResultsFollow-up
myLAB Box$89finger prick blood sampleno2–5 daysphysician consultation
Everlywell$169finger prick and vaginal swab or urine sampleno2–5 daysphysician consultation
Priority STD$99blood draw and urine collectionyes1–3 daysphysician consultation
STD Check$45 (or $90 for HSV-1 and HSV-2)blood drawyes1–2 daysphysician consultation
LetsGetChecked$119 (or $83 monthly for subscription)finger prick blood sampleno2–5 daysphone consultation with clinical team

If you’re considering getting tested for herpes, you may wonder how to choose between the various options. Here are some things to consider:

  • Types of tests: Herpes tests are available as single tests for HSV-1 or HSV-2, a combination test for both, or as part of a comprehensive STI panel that covers a range of infections.
  • Results: Some services offer results in as little as 1 day, while others may take up to 5 days.
  • Accuracy: All the tests on our list boast high accuracy rates. Opt for a company that uses CLIA accredited labs, so you know you’re getting accurate results. Don’t settle for anything less.
  • Privacy and confidentiality: Choose a brand that complies with strict policies to ensure your privacy and confidentiality.
  • Consultations: Wherever possible, opt for a company that provides follow-up care. Should you test positive, it’s helpful to have access to a professional who can advise you on treatment options.
  • Pricing: Tests can range in price from $45 for a single test to over $100 for a comprehensive panel. Consider what tests you need and whether you want to bundle them together to get the best value.

Your HSV test results will likely be reported as negative (sometimes called “normal”) or positive (sometimes called “abnormal”):

  • Negative: The herpes virus was not found. However, you may still have an HSV infection if your results were negative. It may mean the sample didn’t have enough virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to order another test.
  • Positive: HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection (i.e., you currently have sores) or contracted the virus in the past (i.e., you have no sores).

If your test results are positive for HSV, talk with a doctor about your next steps.

Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatments. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.

Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.

Are at-home herpes tests accurate?

These tests use the same type of samples used in a doctor’s office. The accuracy of a herpes test primarily depends on when you get tested.

When should I get tested for herpes?

If you haven’t had an initial outbreak, the best time to get tested for herpes is 12 days after exposure. This is because your body will have had time to produce antibodies that can be detected on a test.

A blood test can determine whether you have these antibodies.

Swabs, on the other hand, can detect the virus directly from an active herpes lesion.

Who should get tested for herpes?

Anyone who has herpes symptoms or thinks they’ve been in close contact with someone who has herpes should get tested.

How can I prevent transmitting herpes?

Although latex condoms can reduce the risk of transmitting most STIs by 98%, condoms don’t prevent herpes transmission. This is because not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a condom.

If you’re experiencing an active outbreak, you can prevent herpes transmission by:

  • avoiding sexual activity (kissing and oral, vaginal, and anal sex) until symptoms go away
  • washing your hands thoroughly and applying medication with cotton swabs to reduce contact with sores

Taking a daily antiviral herpes medication can also help prevent transmission, shorten outbreaks, and manage symptoms.

Are at-home herpes tests private?

Yes. All the tests listed here are completely confidential and private.

Your results won’t be reported to your insurance company and, therefore, will not be placed on your permanent medical records.

The package you receive will only have the shipping label — no test name or visuals that indicate what it’s for. These online platforms are also HIPAA compliant.

What should I do if my herpes test results are positive?

Many at-home services have independent physicians or nurses reach out to people with positive test results. They’ll discuss your results with you and suggest a plan of action, possibly including medication.

If your results are positive, it’s important to let any recent sexual partners know so they can also get tested.

When should I talk with a doctor about herpes?

If you have a primary care doctor who you regularly visit, you can share your results with them to provide better insight into your next steps.

If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you can consult with a physician or nurse from the testing site about treatment options.

If you’ve been treating your symptoms with medication and are still in pain or discomfort, reach out to a healthcare professional.

Will I have to pay for a herpes test out of pocket?

You’ll have to check with your insurance network to see whether at-home STI tests are covered.

Insurance does typically cover them, but sites like Everlywell recommend verifying the purchase with your insurance.

Additionally, some networks may reimburse you for your purchase.

However, most at-home testing sites aren’t currently partnered with any insurance companies, which means you’ll have to reach out yourself.

If you don’t have insurance, you’ll likely have to pay for the test out of pocket. Some sites like Priority STD don’t accept insurance, so it’s a flat rate of $99 regardless of your coverage.

Can you be exposed to herpes and not get it?

Yes. Research suggests that in couples where only one partner had genital herpes, the other partner contracted genital herpes within 1 year in only 5% to 10% of couples.

You can prevent transmission by:

  • taking daily antiviral herpes medication
  • avoiding kissing and oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse during an outbreak
  • using a barrier method during outbreak-free periods

There’s no current cure for herpes, but treatment can prevent or shorten outbreaks and manage symptoms.

Getting tested can prevent oral herpes from spreading to the genital area. It can also protect your sexual partners from contracting the virus.


Bonnie Azoulay Elmann is a freelance writer with six years of experience. She’s written for Glamour, Marie Claire, Health, and more publications. You can find her work here.