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Can I get genital herpes after touching a cold sore on my mouth?

  • herpes
  • oral
  • hsv-1
  • hsv-2
  • genital


"I touched a cold sore on the side of my mouth and then I touched my genitals. Did I just give myself genital herpes?"

- Anonymous



It is increasingly common for an HSV-1 oral herpes/cold sore infection to be found on the genital area. According to the Johns Hopkins University, approximately 30% of Herpes found on the genitals are from the HSV-1 strain. Transmission of this type is more likely to occur if the area touched after being in contact with an HSV-1 infection is cut or abraded as might be present in an area that has recently been shaved.

It is also possible to spread HSV-2 genital herpes to the mouth. Similarly, either strain of herpes can be spread to the eyes if an infected area is touched before rubbing the ocular area, as the mucous membranes of the eye are particularly sensitive.

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are typically transmitted through sexual contact that involves an exchange of saliva or other bodily fluid and skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or mucous membranes.

Herpes is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured but, with proper treatment, can be managed. Click here to learn more about HSV-1 or here to learn more about HSV-2

Safe sex habits such as the use of barrier protection, like a dental dam or a condom, can reduce the risk of transmission and contraction of herpes along with proper hygiene and hand washing.

An HSV-1 and HSV-2 STD test can be purchased through STDAware to rule out or confirm an infection. Positive test results qualify clients for a complimentary consultation with one of STDAware’s medical staff. Click here to learn more about the testing services provided by STDAware.

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