What to Do If You Are Sick

There is no treatment specifically for mpox. Because the viruses that cause mpox and smallpox are closely related, drugs and vaccines developed to treat and protect against smallpox may be effective for mpox.

However, the type of treatment for a person with mpox will depend on how sick someone gets or whether they’re likely to get severely ill. Most people with mpox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.

Some people, like those with a weakened immune system or genital or rectal rashes, may need treatment. Drugs used to treat mpox require a prescription and must be requested by a healthcare provider through the local or state health department.

Taking Care of Yourself

  • Use gauze or bandages to cover the rash to limit spread to others and to the environment.
  • Don’t lance (pop) or scratch lesions from the rash. This does not speed up recovery and can spread the virus to other parts of the body, increase the chance of spreading the virus to others, and possibly cause the open lesions to become infected by bacteria.
  • Do not shave the area with the rash until the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed. Shaving can spread the virus and cause more lesions.
  • Keep skin lesions/rash clean and dry when not showering or bathing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after direct contact with the rash.
    • If you have rash on your hands, be careful when washing or using sanitizer so as not to irritate the rash.
  • If you have rash on your hands, wear gloves that are non-irritating when handling common objects or touching surfaces in shared spaces. If you can, use disposable gloves that can be discarded after each use (e.g., latex, polyurethane, or nitrile gloves). Reusable gloves should be washed with soap and water between use.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask around other people until the rash and all other symptoms have resolved.
  • Eat healthy and get plenty of rest to allow your body to heal.

Managing Your Symptoms

Medicines like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help you feel better. Your healthcare provider may prescribe stronger pain relievers as well.

For rash in the mouth, rinse with salt water at least four times a day. Prescription mouthwashes, sometimes called miracle or magic mouthwash, or local anesthetics like viscous lidocaine can be used to manage pain. Oral antiseptics like chlorhexidine mouthwash can be used to help keep the mouth clean.

Contact your healthcare provider if pain becomes severe and unmanageable at home.

Rash Relief

The most important thing is to try to not touch or scratch the rash. This can spread the rash to other parts of the body, increase the chance of spreading the virus to others, and possibly cause open lesions to become infected by bacteria. If you do accidentally touch the rash, wash your hands with soap and water and avoid touching sensitive areas like your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals and rectum (butthole).

Topical benzocaine/lidocaine gels can be used for temporary relief. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl and topical creams such as calamine lotion or petroleum jelly may help with itching.

Soaking in a warm bath (using oatmeal or other over-the-counter bath products for itchy skin) may offer some relief to the dry, itchy sensations that can come with the rash.

People who have the rash in or around their anus (butthole) or genitals (penis, testicles, labia, vagina), or perineum (taint) may also benefit from a sitz-bath. A sitz bath is a round, shallow basin that can be purchased online or at a pharmacy. Most fit over the rim of a toilet but can also be placed in a bathtub. There is also the option to sit in a bathtub with shallow water. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication like povidone-iodine or other products to be added to the water in a sitz bath. Adding Epsom salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the water can be soothing.

More Details: For information about skin care for individuals with mpox lesions, please see Mpox: Caring for the Skin [165 KB; 2 pages].

Preventing Spread to Others

If you have mpox, you are advised to stay at home (isolate) if you have mpox symptoms, including until your mpox rash has healed and a new layer of skin has formed. Staying away from other people and not sharing things you have touched with others will help prevent the spread of mpox. People with mpox should clean and disinfect the spaces they occupy regularly to limit household contamination.

If you cannot isolate completely while you are sick, take precautions to limit the risk of spreading mpox to others such as

  • Wear a well-fitting mask and cover lesions while around others.
  • Disinfect surfaces in shared bathrooms or rooms between each use.
  • Avoid sharing objects (e.g., towels, washcloths, drinking from the same glass).
  • Cover upholstered furniture and porous materials that cannot be washed.

Mpox can also spread to animals, so staying away from pets, livestock and other animals is important.

Notifying Close Contacts

If you have been diagnosed with mpox, it’s important to notify your close contacts that they may have been exposed to mpox as soon as possible, so they can watch for signs and symptoms, get tested, and isolate if they have symptoms. They should consider getting vaccinated if exposed less than 14 days ago, ideally within 4 days of exposure. Vaccination provides the best chance to prevent the disease or make it less severe. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to mpox, you are helping to protect them and everyone around them.

Who Are Close Contacts?

A close contact is anyone who was exposed to someone with mpox symptoms through:

  • Having sex; this includes oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
  • Touching or coming in close contact with the rash of a person with mpox.
  • Being hugged, cuddled, kissed, or having other prolonged skin-to-skin contact.
  • Sharing cups, utensils, towels, clothing, bedding, blankets, or other personal objects and materials used by someone with mpox.

Make a List of Close Contacts to Notify

Think about:

  • Who were/are your sex partners?
  • Who lives with you (including family members, roommates, or overnight guests)?
  • Who have you recently had prolonged skin-to-skin contact with? Consider the following:
    • In-person meetings or gatherings you attended.
    • People you have met with recently (i.e., for a home visit, at a restaurant, for drinks, for dancing, for exercise, or for a party).
    • People you played contact sports with (for example, basketball or wrestling).
    • Appointments with health care providers, including dentists.
    • People who have provided you services, such as childcare providers, house cleaners, barbers, hairdressers, nail salon workers, massage therapists, adult care workers, etc.
    • People you work or volunteer with outside of the home.

Tips on Preparing and What to Say

If you are feeling a little uncertain about notifying your contacts, it can be helpful to prepare beforehand to make sure the communication goes smoothly. Below are few tips that may be useful:

  • Think through how you would want to be notified in the same situation.
  • Consider safety and privacy. If texting, messaging, or emailing, consider whether other people might be able read your communication. If you are notifying by phone, first ask your contact if they are in a place where they can speak privately.
  • Saying the words out loud can help you think through what you want to say and how you want to say it before you reach out.
  • Consider the person and prepare how you would want to calmly react to the different types of responses you might get.

An example of what you can say to your close contacts could be:

“Hi. I need to talk to you about something important. Do you have a few minutes to talk privately? I was diagnosed with mpox (or tested positive) on [xxx date]. Mpox can spread through close or intimate contact. Since we spent time together on [xxx date], I wanted to let you know. You should check for symptoms and get tested ASAP if you have symptoms. The CDC has information on their website at www.cdc.gov/mpox.”

Other Options for Notifying Your Close Contacts

If you are unable to notify your close contacts yourself, there are other options available to you:

  • Health Department Assistance. You may be contacted by a public health professional from your local health department, typically called a disease intervention specialist or DIS. A DIS may reach out to you to discuss your diagnosis, answer any questions you have, and, if you want help, confidentially notify your contacts. They will protect your privacy and not disclose anything about you. When they notify your contacts, they will connect them to services that they may need, including medical care, testing, treatment, and/or vaccines, as appropriate. However, some health departments may not be able to provide this service depending on local resources.
  • Anonymous Notification Services. You can use a reputable, online service that can notify your contacts of their possible exposure to mpox while protecting your anonymity. One such site is tellyourpartner.org. The service is free. You can first explore the site to learn more about how they protect your privacy and the language that will be used in the notification. This site also will let your contacts know where they can obtain additional information about mpox.

Choose the method of notifying your contacts that you are most comfortable with. You can use different methods for different contacts. The important thing is to make sure that your contacts have the information they need in time to make decisions about their health and prevent spreading mpox to others.