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Can You Kiss Someone With Herpes?

The question “can you kiss someone with herpes?” is an intricate topic to address. The question implies a yes or no answer, but is a lot more complex. However, it is an understandable question due to the commonality of this virus. Before you go ahead and kiss your crush or partner, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved. With something as personal as a kiss, a mixture of factors including your comfort and level of trust should be considered.

The herpes virus, whether it be HSV-1 (cold sore or oral herpes) or HSV-2, is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. This contact includes kissing, contact with the infected area such as vaginal, oral and anal sex. While you cannot catch the virus from shaking someone’s hand, pecks on the cheek and other types of kissing are all valid ways that the virus can spread. But how much of a risk is it?

The Facts

HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, is extremely common–around 67% of the global population under 50 are estimated to have HSV-1– according to the World Health Organization.
While HSV-1 usually causes cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth, it can also cause genital herpes, especially if a person with HSV-1 performs oral sex on another person.

HSV-2, known as genital herpes, is still considered the major culprit in terms of causing genital herpes infections. Around 12% of Americans under the age of 50 have HSV-2, according to the CDC.

Whether or not a person has HSV-1 or HSV-2, both can be transmitted sexually. Many people transfer this virus unknowingly since it often does not show symptoms. Herpes also has the unique capability of spreading through seemingly uninfected areas such as around the mouth and genitals by “shedding” infected skin cells. The risk is also considerably high if the individual has open cold sores. Hence, while we do not have strict statistics on how likely it is to contract herpes from kissing, there is certainly a possibility. But, there are medications and methods available to make herpes a more manageable disease.

Herpes and Relationships

So what does this mean for relationships? Since over half of the world’s population has HSV-1, does this mean the end for kissing? Of course not. But you probably shouldn’t go around kissing random people on the street either. Intimacy of any sort can involve some risks, so it is important to be open and honest with your partner(s). There are a variety of methods in which individuals living with herpes can decrease their likelihood of accidentally spreading the disease.

Precautionary Methods

While herpes is significantly contagious, medical research has found ways to decrease transmission and symptom severity. However, a cure has yet to be discovered.
Antivirals such as Valtrex and Famvir can be taken to mediate the frequency and acuteness of outbreaks. If you tested positive for herpes, you and health care provider would decide whether your case requires episodic or a more suppressive treatment plan. These medications can also help to suppress the virus and decrease the possibility of spreading it to your partner(s).

If you or your partner happen to experience an outbreak of herpes sores around the mouth, anus, rectum or genitals, it is best to avoid skin-to-skin contact. Herpes sores are highly contagious. You can even spread an existing herpes virus to other areas of the body by spreading infected cells from one area to another. During intercourse, dental dams and condoms may provide some protection, but will not cover all contagious areas of skin, and so cannot be considered risk-free. The use of antiviral medications should help avoid outbreaks and shedding which would put either you or your partner at risk.

To Kiss or Not To Kiss

In the end, if you or your partner(s) test positive for HSV-1 or HSV-2, the decision is up to you. While herpes is rather contagious, it is not deadly, fairly common and there are medications available to suppress it.

Due to these amazing feats of science, people living with the herpes simplex virus can lead normal lives and kiss others without too much concern. Unfortunately, social stigma around having the disease gives many the impression that herpes is socially debilitating; however, it doesn’t have to be. The key to this is making your partner(s) aware and doing what you can to treat the disease.

If you or your partner should be concerned about contracting herpes, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. It is recommended that sexually active individuals receive STD testing at least every year to keep. This will help you prepare for any necessary treatment and precautions in future intimate endeavors.

Concerns about your sexual health are completely understandable. In the event that you or your partner should become worried–or even just for a routine check–Priority STD offers discrete and professional testing services. Set up your appointment online with us and get tested at one of our nationwide testing centers.