On average, people with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) have less than one outbreak each year. Outbreaks of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) are much more common, with most people with this strain having four or five outbreaks each year.
Why Does Outbreak Frequency Vary?
It’s unclear exactly what triggers a herpes outbreak, although certain factors make them more likely. People without chronic physical and mental health conditions who exercise, practice good nutrition, and get adequate sleep are likely to have fewer herpes outbreaks. Women also usually have more frequent herpes outbreaks than men. It’s thought the hormone fluctuations experienced during periods, pregnancy, and menopause may trigger herpes outbreaks.
Antiviral medications can also help reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks. People on these medications have up to 70-80% fewer outbreaks than they would without the medication. Their outbreaks also tend to be shorter than people who don’t take these meds.
Does Outbreak Frequency Change Over Time?
Most people notice they have the greatest number of outbreaks within their first year of contracting herpes. They then experience fewer herpes episodes as they get older. Often these outbreaks are less severe over time too.