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Testing for herpes used to mean a trip to the doctor’s office. But thanks to at-home herpes test kits, you can receive your results privately in just a few days.

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 ages 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.

An in-person appointment with a doctor could require a few different tests, including a virus antigen detection test, and/or an antibody test. This could require multiple pricks or trips to the doctor to accomplish.

An at-home test kit, 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.

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.

PriceCollectionLab visit requiredResultsFollow-up
LetsGetChecked Herpes Test$119 (or $83 monthly for subscription)finger-prick blood sampleno2–5 daysphone consultation with clinical team
STD Check$45 (or $79 for HSV-1 and HSV-2)blood drawyes1–2 daysphysician consultation
Everlywell STD Test$169finger-prick and vaginal swab or urine samplenoa few daysphysician consultation
myLAB Box At-Home Herpes Test$89finger-prick blood sampleno2–5 daysphysician consultation
Priority STD$99 (for HSV-1 and HSV-2)blood draw and urine collectionyes1–3 daysphysician consultation

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 4–7 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.

The popularity of at-home testing has increased over the past several years, and there are many reasons for this.

At-home herpes testing offers convenience and privacy and can be less expensive than in-person testing. Instead of making an appointment with your doctor for an in-person visit, you order the test kit online, collect your sample at your convenience, and mail it to the lab.

Collection methods are typically the same with both kinds of testing — you’ll either do a genital swab, urine collection, or blood sample.

Keep in mind that some at-home test kits allow a finger-prick blood sample that you can collect at home. But for others, you may have to visit an in-person lab to have your blood drawn by a professional.

The downside of some at-home testing is that you may not have a doctor to help you interpret your results. In some cases, sample results are sent right to you, and it’s up to you to interpret the information.

With herpes testing, you’ll generally get a positive or negative, so the results aren’t as complicated as some other types of tests, but having a doctor’s guidance can be helpful if you don’t know the proper next steps to take.

That being said, all the at-home herpes tests we recommend having a physician follow-up or phone consultation with the clinical team when you get your results.

If you receive a positive result, you should still schedule an appointment with a doctor to talk through treatment and next steps, regardless of whether or not you received follow-up care.

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 test kits 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 STIs, 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 test kits 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 5–10% 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.