Can You Contract Herpes Just By Kissing? (2022)

Can You Contract Herpes Just By Kissing? (1)Share on Pinterest

Yes, you can contract oral herpes, aka cold sores, from kissing, but developing genital herpes this way is less likely.

Oral herpes (HSV-1) is usually transmitted by kissing, and genital herpes (HSV-2) is most often spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes, but genital herpes is most commonly caused by HSV-2.

There’s no need to swear off kissing forever on account of herpes, though. Read on for everything you need to know about herpes from kissing and other contact.

Oral herpes is mainly transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with someone who carries the virus. You can get it from contact with cold sores, saliva, or the surfaces in and around the mouth.

Fun fact: Around 90 percent of American adults are exposed to HSV-1 by the age of 50. Most contract it during childhood, usually from a kiss from a relative or friend.

Nope. Full-on tongue action, a peck on the cheek, and every other kind of kiss in between can spread herpes.

There isn’t any research showing that one type of kiss is riskier than another when it comes to oral herpes risk. That said, there’s evidence that the risk of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) goes up with open-mouthed kissing.

Remember that kissing isn’t restricted to the face either — making oral-to-genital contact can transmit HSV, too.

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The risk of transmission is higher when there are visible sores or blisters, but you or your partner can still contract herpes — oral or genital — if symptoms aren’t present.

Once you contract herpes simplex, it’s in the body for life.

Not everyone experiences an outbreak, but everyone with the virus experiences periods of asymptomatic shedding. This is why herpes can be spread even when there are no visible symptoms.

It’s impossible to predict when shedding will occur or how contagious you or your partner’s condition will be. Everyone is different.

You shouldn’t, especially during an outbreak.

You can contract herpes from sharing any objects that have made contact with the saliva of a person who carries the virus.

That said, HSV can’t live very long off of the skin, so the risk of contracting it from inanimate objects is very low.

Still, the best way to minimize your risk is to use your own lipstick, fork, or whatever else.

For starters, avoid direct skin-to-skin contact during an outbreak.

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This includes kissing and oral sex, since herpes can be spread through oral action, including rimming.

Avoid sharing objects that make contact with saliva, like drinks, utensils, straws, lipsticks, and — not that anyone would — toothbrushes.

Using barrier protection, such as condoms and dental dams during sexual activity can also help reduce your risk.

Skin-to-skin contact and contact with the saliva of a person who has oral herpes carries the highest risk of transmission.

HSV-1 is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and contact with sores and saliva.

HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that’s typically spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex.

We can’t stress it enough that by “sex” we mean any kind of sexual contact, such as kissing, touching, oral, and vaginal and anal penetration.

It depends.

You’re more likely to contact HSV-1 through oral sex and HSV-2 through penetrative vaginal or anal sex.

Penetration using a sex toy can also cause genital herpes, which is why experts usually advise against sharing toys.

Does HSV increase your risk for other conditions?

(Video) Can You Get Herpes From Kissing

Actually, yes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), contracting HSV-2 triples your risk of contracting HIV.

Anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of people living with HIV also have HSV-2.

You probably won’t know you’ve contracted herpes until you have an outbreak, which is the case for most people who have it.

HSV-1 can be asymptomatic or cause very mild symptoms that can be easy to miss.

An outbreak can cause cold sores or blisters in and around your mouth. Some people notice tingling, burning, or itching in the area before sores appear.

If you contract genital herpes caused by HSV-1, you may develop one or more sores or blisters in your genital or anal area.

Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 can also be asymptomatic or cause mild symptoms that you may not notice. If you do develop symptoms, the first outbreak is often more severe than subsequent outbreaks.

You may experience:

  • one or more genital or anal sores or blisters
  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches
  • pain when peeing
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • mild tingling or shooting pain in the hips, buttocks, and legs before sores appear

You should see a doctor or other healthcare provider if you suspect you’ve contracted herpes.

A healthcare provider can usually diagnose herpes with a physical exam and one or more of the following tests:

  • a viral culture, which involves scraping off a sample of the sore for examination in a lab
  • a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which compares a sample of your blood and from a sore to determine which type of HSV you have
  • a blood test to check for HSV antibodies from a past herpes infection

No, there’s no cure for HSV, but try not to let that get you down. You can still have an awesome sex life with herpes!

Treatments are available to help manage symptoms of HSV-1 and HSV-2 and help prevent or shorten the duration of outbreaks.

On average, people with herpes experience four outbreaks a year. For many, each outbreak gets easier with less pain and shorter recovery time.

(Video) Can You Spread Herpes By Kissing?

Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, home remedies, and lifestyle changes are used to treat the symptoms of HSV. The type of HSV you have will determine which treatments you should use.

The goal of treatment is to prevent or shorten the duration of breakouts and reduce the risk of transmission.

Antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and acyclovir (Zovirax), help reduce the severity and frequency of oral and genital herpes symptoms.

Your provider may prescribe a daily suppressive medication if you experience severe or frequent outbreaks.

OTC pain medication can help relieve pain from oral and genital herpes, and there are several topical OTC treatments available for cold sores.

Here are some other things you can do to help ease symptoms:

  • Soak in a sitz bath if you have painful genital sores.
  • Apply a cold compress to a painful cold sore.
  • Minimize outbreak triggers, including stress and too much sun.
  • Boost your immune system with a healthy diet and regular exercise to help prevent outbreaks.

You can contract or transmit herpes and other STIs from kissing, but this doesn’t mean that you should blow off lip action all together and miss out on all the fun.

(Video) Genital Herpes Myths & Facts | STDs

Avoiding skin-to-skin contact when you or your partner is experiencing an active outbreak will go a long way. Barrier protection can also help.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.

FAQs

Can You Contract Herpes Just By Kissing? ›

Yes, you can contract oral herpes, aka cold sores, from kissing, but developing genital herpes this way is less likely. Oral herpes (HSV-1) is usually transmitted by kissing, and genital herpes (HSV-2) is most often spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What are the odds of getting herpes from kissing? ›

PSA, You can 100% acquire herpes just by kissing someone (or getting kissed by someone) who has the herpes virus. Unfortunately, in this case, weird-cargo-shorts kid was right. The herpes simplex virus (herpes' formal name) is most often transmitted through direct contact with a person who's been infected.

Can you get herpes from kissing without outbreak? ›

Herpes is transmitted through human-to-human contact, usually through kissing or sex. As long as there is skin contact, a person with herpes can infect another person, even when they are not exhibiting any symptoms.

Can you pass herpes through saliva? ›

Yes. Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are due to HSV-1.

Can you get herpes from a kiss on the cheek? ›

Does the type of kiss matter? Nope. Full-on tongue action, a peck on the cheek, and every other kind of kiss in between can spread herpes. There isn't any research showing that one type of kiss is riskier than another when it comes to oral herpes risk.

How long does it take herpes to show up? ›

Initial herpes symptoms usually show up 2 to 20 days after you're infected. But it may be years before the first symptoms appear. Herpes sores usually heal in a few weeks. But the virus stays in your body – and it can flare up and cause sores again.

How long is herpes contagious? ›

Cold sores are usually contagious for up to 15 days.

Cold sores are generally no longer contagious once all cold sore symptoms have cleared, including the blister and any scabbing.

Will herpes ever be cured? ›

While there is no cure for herpes, the severity of the virus varies over the course of an infected person's lifetime. In fact, some people with the disease do not experience any symptoms for extended periods. They may still shed the virus, though, even when no symptoms are present.

Can you be exposed to herpes and not get it? ›

Everyone who is exposed to the virus does not develop sores, but may still shed virus and expose others through contact with the infected area even if sores are not present. Who should get tested for Herpes?

Can I spread herpes without sores? ›

Genital herpes can be spread even when there are no visible ulcers or blisters. Being diagnosed with genital herpes can be an emotional and distressing experience, and it is important to speak with your health care provider about how to manage symptoms and avoid passing the virus to sexual partners.

How accurate is herpes blood test? ›

Herpes blood tests have a sensitivity level of about 80-98%. This type of test detects antibodies to the herpes virus, so it may not be as accurate when performed soon after infection.

Is there a blood test for herpes? ›

Herpes Blood Tests

It is possible to screen for asymptomatic herpes infections using a blood test. Herpes blood tests can detect antibodies to the herpes virus. There are two kinds of blood tests for herpes: IgM tests detect short-lasting antibodies that form to fight the virus shortly after an infection has occurred.

How do you test for herpes? ›

PCR is used to copy your DNA from a sample of your blood, tissue from a sore or spinal fluid. The DNA can then be tested to establish the presence of HSV and determine which type of HSV you have. Blood test. This test analyzes a sample of your blood for the presence of HSV antibodies to detect a past herpes infection.

Why is there no cure for herpes? ›

Why creating a cure is difficult. Herpes is challenging to cure because of the nature of the virus. The HSV infection can hide away in a person's nerve cells for months or years before reappearing and reactivating the infection.

Can my partner have herpes and not me? ›

It is definitely possible that you have genital herpes and that your partner does not.

How long can you have herpes without knowing? ›

Many people with the herpes virus do not experience any symptoms when first infected. If symptoms do occur they usually take between 2 and 12 days after contact to appear. Sometimes symptoms may not be noticed until months, or sometimes years, after being in contact with the virus.

How long can you have herpes without knowing? ›

Many people with the herpes virus do not experience any symptoms when first infected. If symptoms do occur they usually take between 2 and 12 days after contact to appear. Sometimes symptoms may not be noticed until months, or sometimes years, after being in contact with the virus.

What does herpes look like when it first starts? ›

Herpes looks like white, yellow, or red translucent sores or bumps, filled with a clear liquid, whereas pimples are pink or red and are not see-through. While pimples may appear individually as well as in clusters but in recognizable patterns, herpes sores are primarily observed in a bunch.

What does herpes look like in the first stage? ›

At first, the sores look similar to small bumps or pimples before developing into pus-filled blisters. These may be red, yellow or white. Once they burst, a clear or yellow liquid will run out, before the blister develops a yellow crust and heals.

Can my partner have herpes and not me? ›

It is definitely possible that you have genital herpes and that your partner does not.

Videos

1. How Contagious is Herpes?
(The Doctors)
2. You Are This Likely To Get An STD
(The Infographics Show)
3. If You Have HSV1 (Herpes) How Do You Know When You Can Kiss Again?
(ReidAboutSex)
4. Herpes Simplex 1 & 2: Symptoms, Transmission and Treatment
(Scary Mommy)
5. How Common Is Herpes Really? | Report Card | RIOT
(Refinery29)
6. Herpes from KISSING?!
(What's My Body Doing)

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