Asking for a Friend…

On this edition: Is this a pimple or herpes? Plus: Why am I so gassy?

4 min read

You’ve found your way to Asking for a Friend…, a series where we take on your awkward medical questions. Nothing is too embarrassing or off limits. 

Got something you want to, ahem, “ask for a friend”? Send us an email at All questions will remain completely anonymous.

I’ve got a weird, painful bump on my lip. How can I tell if it’s a zit or herpes?

It’s not uncommon to mix the two up. After all, blemishes and herpes actually do have a few things in common:

  • Small, red bumps
  • Pus
  • Possibly itchy

But there are some key differences that can help you identify what this bump may be. Herpes appear a white, yellow, or red sores, which are translucent and filled with a clear liquid. Pimples, on the other hand, tend to be pink or red, and are not translucent. 

If your skin is breaking out, you may see a cluster of pimples. However, herpes sores are more likely to appear in bunches. 

Pimples are round, firm, hard, and may or may not be painful to the touch. Pimples contain thicker, white or beige pus. Herpes sores are painful, itchy, inflamed, sensitive, and contain a clear liquid. Both may bleed if they burst. Pimples typically go away, but herpes sores will reoccur. Herpes rashes pop up in 2-week cycles. In that time, they’ll appear, grow, and crust, before bursting. If you have herpes, talk to your doctor, as you’ll need treatment to curb the cycle. 

In either case, don’t pick at the bump. In the case of pimples, this can worsen infections and cause swelling, which makes your zit way worse. In the case of herpes sores, poking or popping the sore is painful and can lead to secondary infections. 

Asking for a Friend - Is this a pimple or herpes? Plus: Why am I so gassy?

Herpes may also have other symptoms not associated with zits, such as:

  • High fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Pain or tingling in the legs
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint pain or aches
  • Thick, clear, white/cloudy discharge from the vagina or penis

Want to know definitively if you have herpes? Get an STD test from a clinic or doctor—use LabFinder to find an STD test near you.

I’m tired of farting! I’ve been plagued by terrible gas for more than a year. I fart very frequently, and the smell ranges from fairly stinky to the kind of stank that can clear a room. My tummy is often sore and swollen, and it’s hard for me to hold my farts back, even in public. Is there something wrong with me?

Farting is completely healthy. Some estimates say that people fart an average of 14 to 23 times per day. Certain foods, including beans and cruciferous vegetables, may trigger more (or stinkier) gas. Tooting is embarrassing, but it’s part of life. However, it sounds like your gas may go beyond what’s considered normal.

Unfortunately, because there are many potential causes of gas, we can’t diagnose you from your description, though we can identify a few things that may be going awry:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Food allergies or intolerance, such as lactose intolerance
  • Eating too many fermented foods or carbonated beverages
  • Diabetes
  • GI scleroderma, which is when the GI tract atrophies and becomes replaced with scar tissue, impacting digestion
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Small bowel bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Diverticulosis, which is when when sacs form and push on the wall of your colon

Because the causes are so varied, you’ll need to see your doctor to figure out the best path forward. Your doctor may check the distension of your stomach (the swelling you described), listen to your gut sounds with a stethoscope, and/or palpate your stomach to identify any pain. They may also perform a rectal exam. Any number of tests may be ordered depending on your history and what the doctor identifies during their exam, including stool tests, allergy tests, x-rays, blood tests, and others.

Whatever the cause of your gas, it sounds like it’s definitely time to seek an expert opinion. You deserve to live a less smelly life! But, even more than that, your farts are likely telling you something important about your health. 

Ask a question “for a friend” by emailing us at All questions will remain anonymous.