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Boyfriend Has Herpes 1 - Will I Get Genital Herpes?

Published: 2010/02/15
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My boyfriend just told me that he has herpes 1. If he has a cold sore and gives me oral sex, would I get genital herpes?
Signed: Boyfriend Has Herpes 1 - Will I Get Genital Herpes?

Dear Boyfriend Has Herpes 1 - Will I Get Genital Herpes?,

 

There are basically two types of herpes: Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) is the virus that causes cold sores, the small and painful blisters that usually appear on or around a person’s lips. Herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) is the virus that causes genital herpes.

In addition to appearing around the lips, sores associated with HSV-1 can also show up inside the mouth, on the face, or even inside or on the nose. While these are the most common places HSV-1 cold sores appear, they can show up anywhere on the body, including the genital area. That said, if your boyfriend has HSV-1 and gives you oral sex, it is possible to transmit the HSV-1 to you and for you to have blisters associated with the HSV-1 in your genital area. However, technically you would not have genital herpes – you would have an HSV-1 virus outbreak that happens to be in your genital area.

Since your boyfriend has HSV-1, it is important that you are both aware of how HSV-1 is spread. Cold sores are very contagious and are easily spread, so it is important for you both to be educated on preventing the transmission of HSV-1.

How HSV-1 is transmitted and important facts to be aware of:

·         HSV-1 spreads through direct contact with another person. This can include skin to skin contact, as well as contact with oral or genital secretions (like through kissing, as well as vaginal, oral, and anal sex).

·         If a person has HSV-1 and gets cold sores around the mouth, it is possible to transmit the virus during oral sex, causing HSV-1 outbreaks in the genital area of the person’s partner.

·         HSV-1 can be spread by sharing a cup, utensils, or lip balm/lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.

·         HSV-1 can be spread if a person touches a cold sore and then touches a mucous membrane (such as in the nose, mouth, eyes, or vagina) or area of the skin with a cut on it. Because of this, it is very important never to pick, punch, or squeeze a cold sore. In general, it is best not to touch cold sores.

·         It is especially important not to touch your eyes after touching a cold sore as HSV-1 can do a lot of damage to the eyes. If you have touched a cold sore, have a cold sore, or around someone who has a cold sore, it is advisable to frequently wash your hands.

·         HSV-1 is most contagious when a sore is present, but it can still be passed on even if you cannot see any sores.

·         Cold sores can turn into bacterial skin infections if not taken care of properly and can even be dangerous for those with weakened immune systems (such as people with cancer, HIV, or for small infants).

·         Although rare, it is possible for a woman to spread genital herpes to her infant during childbirth.

How to prevent spreading HSV-1 (and HSV-2)

·         Stop having any kind of sexual contact as soon as you feel warning signs of an outbreak. Some people will get burning, itching, or tingling feelings that indicate an outbreak is about to come on. Do not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex – even with a condom if you feel an outbreak coming on or you have any kind of outbreak – but wait until one week after the sores heal.

·         If you are sexually active, use condoms between outbreaks to reduce the risk of transmission.

·         Use herpes treatments to reduce the risk of transmission.

·         Don’t touch herpes sores. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water to kill the virus. Take special care to wash your hands before touching any area near your eyes or touching a contact lens.

·         Never wet contact lens with saliva – this is true if you have either type of herpes, but especially with HSV-1.

·         If you have a cold sore on your mouth, do not kiss anyone – especially infants, children, and pregnant women.

Managing cold sores:

Cold sores associated with HSV-1 typically go away on their own within 7-10 days. While there is no cure for HSV-1, there are medications that can make the infection go away, as well as prescription drugs and creams that can shorten the length of an outbreak and make the cold sore less painful. Applying ice to the area or taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen (under a doctor’s direction) can also help to make your more comfortable and relieve any pain associated with the sores.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor under the following conditions:

·         You think you may have HSV-1 and want to be properly diagnosed.

·         You need further education on HSV-1, including how to manage symptoms and how to prevent spreading the virus.

·         You have another health condition that has weakened your immune system.

·         Sores do not heal themselves within 7-10 days.

·         You get cold sores frequently.

·         You have any signs of a bacterial infection, such as fever, pus, or spreading redness.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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