Symptoms of herpetic whitlow
The symptoms of herpetic whitlow include:
- a red, swollen and painful finger
- blisters or sores on your finger
When to see your GP
You should see your GP if you think you have herpetic whitlow.
Treatment is more effective if started early and will help stop the infection spreading.
You may be prescribed antiviral tablets if you see a GP within 48 hours of your symptoms showing.
Antiviral tablets can help your finger to heal more quickly.
If you can't see a GP within 48 hours, the infection will go away without treatment. But there are things you can do yourself to help.
Things you can do yourself include:
- keep your finger clean and covered with a dressing
- take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease the pain
- touch your finger – the infection can spread easily
- touch other parts of your body or other people with your infected finger
- try to drain the fluid – this can cause the infection to spread
- use contact lenses – you could spread the infection to your eye
Go back to your GP if your infection gets worse or if you have a very high temperature (you feel hot and shivery).
Causes of herpetic whitlow
Herpetic whitlow is caused by a virus called ‘herpes simplex’. You can get it if you touch a cold sore or blister of another infected person.
You're more likely to get herpetic whitlow if you've had cold sores or genital herpes.
You may also get it if you have a weakened immune system – for example, if you have diabetes or you're having chemotherapy.
The first time you have herpetic whitlow will usually be the most severe.
Once you have the virus, it stays in your body for the rest of your life.
The condition is rare, but if you get it once you can get it again. For example, it might come back if you have a cut or sore on your finger, or if you're feeling stressed or unwell.
There's not much you can do to prevent herpetic whitlow. But it can be treated in the same way if it comes back.