What Is Oral Herpes
Many people associate herpes simplex virus or herpes with sexually transmitted diseases. However, not all herpes infections are contracted via sex.
Oral herpes herpes simplex 1 or HSV-1 affects the mouth. It causes cold sores and fever blisters to develop in and around the mouth. Both herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 can infect the mouth and genitals, but simplex 1 is most often linked to oral infections.
Virus type 1 HSV lesions usually last about 7 to 10 days. They begin as fluid-filled blisters that rupture after a day or two.
The fluid within the sores contains the herpes simplex virus type, which is how it transmits from one person to another. Anyone who comes into contact with the highly contagious fluid from another persons sores is at risk of contracting the virus.
Most people are infected in childhood, often through contact with a parent or another close person in their lives.
Herpes is often transmitted via kissing and other types of touching. Sharing objects such as lip balm or silverware contaminated with the infected fluid can also cause it.
Once infected, a person has herpes for life. However, this doesnt mean the infection is always active. It is common for the virus to lay dormant in the body and not show any symptoms.
Some people will experience only one outbreak in their life, while others have outbreaks more often. The most common causes of outbreaks include stress, sun exposure, or other illnesses.
What To Do If You Have The Early Symptoms Of Herpes
What should you do if you feel like you have some early symptoms of herpes going on in your body?
Heres a simple guide:
2. Get a herpes test.
3. Tell your partner.Telling your partner is the responsible thing to do. Maybe hold off on sex and get them tested by a laboratory.
4. Consider treatment options. Theres lots and lots of herpes treatments available.
Your life will go on with herpes.
Its really not so bad. Youll still be able to have sex. And still be able to love and be loved.
Just a few changes in your lifestyle, thats all.
Recommended Reading: How Do I Get Rid Of Herpes On My Lip
Triggers For Cold Sores
In some people the HSV infection causes cold sores, which erupt following a trigger event such as a cold. This explains the term cold sore. Other triggers that may cause an attack of cold sores include:
- feverish illnesses, like influenza, or chest infections
- hormonal changes, such as the menstrual period
- emotional or physical stress.
It is important to remember that cold sores are a symptom of ongoing infection rather than a new infection. The sores usually recur in the same place.
Recommended Reading: What Medication For Herpes Outbreak
Treatment For Cold Sores
Cold sores are generally not dangerous and do not cause any permanent damage to the skin. Treatment does not cure the infection and is not necessary for most cases. Avoid picking the scab or breaking blisters as this can cause secondary infection with bacteria, or scarring. Creams to treat the symptoms can be soothing, as can ice on the blisters. Simple painkillers may occasionally be required. Povidone-iodine ointments can be dabbed onto the cold sores and may reduce symptoms in some people.Antiviral medications come in many forms, including creams and tablets. Medications such as aciclovir and famciclovir shorten the duration of the cold sore by reducing the ability of the virus to reproduce. Aciclovir cream works best when applied to the blister at the earliest stages of cold sore development, when the area is tingling. However, not everyone experiences warning signs of an impending cold sore.
What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
Recommended Reading: What Can Trigger Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Oral Herpes And Pregnancy
Having oral herpes should not affect your pregnancy. There is more cause for concern with genital herpes, which a doctor may treat to prevent outbreaks during delivery.5 Its worth noting that receiving oral sex from a partner with oral herpes can give you genital herpes. If you have oral herpes and have reason to believe this may affect your pregnancy, speak with your primary health care provider.
Are There Treatments And Medications For Oral Herpes
Treatment includes medication for fever and taking plenty of fluids.
- A topical anesthetic such as viscous lidocaine may be prescribed to relieve pain associated with oral blisters and lesions.
- Oral or IV medication does exist for HSV but is not recommended for people with a normal immune system. It is used only for people with weakened immune systems, infants younger than 6 weeks of age, or people with severe disease.
- Some people may require hospital admission.
- Those with severe local infection
- People whose infection has spread to other organ systems
- People with weakened immune systems
- Dehydrated individuals who need IV hydration
- Infants younger than 6 weeks of age
Mild uncomplicated eruptions of herpes simplex require no treatment. Severe infection may require treatment with an antiviral agent. Oral antiviral drugs include
To reduce the chance of acquiring HSV-1, avoid touching saliva, skin, or mucous membranes of people who have HSV-1 lesions. Prevention of genital HSV may be accomplished by latex condoms, but protection is never 100%. Spermicides do not protect against HSV. Some clinicians recommend using dental dams during oral sex, but like condoms, they are not 100% protective.
You May Like: Does Herpes Ever Go Away For Good
Suppressive Therapy For Recurrences
To suppress outbreaks, treatment requires taking pills daily on a long-term basis. Acyclovir and famciclovir are taken twice a day for suppression. Valacyclovir is taken once a day. The doses for these antiviral drugs are reduced in people with impaired renal function.
Suppressive treatment can reduce the frequency of outbreak recurrences by 70% to 80%. It is generally recommended for people who have frequent recurrences . Because herpes recurrences often diminish over time, you should discuss annually with your provider whether you should stay with drug therapy or discontinue it.
There is some evidence that valacyclovir may help prevent herpes transmission, particularly in situations where one heterosexual partner has HSV-2 and the other partner does not. However, this drug does not completely prevent transmission. While taking any suppressive therapy for genital herpes, it is still important to regularly use latex condoms and to avoid any sexual activity during recurrences.
You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Herpes Dr Sebi
Complications Of Cold Sores
For most people, cold sores get better in time with over-the-counter treatments and self-care. However, for people with weakened immune systems, cold sores can be more severe and spread more widely.
Uncommon complications of cold sores include:
- bacterial infections where the cold sore is crusty and has pus
- cold sores that spread to the eyes see your doctor immediately since this can lead to eye damage
You May Like: How To Test For Herpes At Home
Medical Treatment For Oral Herpes
Oral herpes symptoms may resolve without treatment within one to two weeks.
If needed, your healthcare provider will prescribe certain antiviral medications to treat your condition. These medications help with any pain you may be experiencing as well as alleviate symptoms more quickly.
Medications that are used to treat HSV-1 include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, which are most effective if taken when initial warning signs of an incoming flare-up appear and before blisters develop.
There Is More Than One Type Of Herpes Infection
There are two types of herpes simplex infection: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 . Cold sores around the mouth are generally caused by HSV-1. Most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Cold sores on the mouth can cause genital infection during oral sex for people who do not already carry the cold sore virus. There are many other viruses that are also in the herpes virus family, however the infection and symptoms are different. One example is varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox and shingles.
Also Check: How To Prevent Herpes Flare Ups
Is Oral Herpes Permanent
Yes. Once a person contracts the herpes virus, they will always have it.
However, this doesnt mean theyll have active recurrences throughout their lives. There are things you can do to reduce the risk of recurrence. For example:
- Mitigate fevers
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight
If unavoidable circumstances such as menstruation, surgery, or physical injuries trigger an outbreak, the treatments listed above can reduce your risk of an outbreak and/or lessen the severity of an outbreak.
Symptoms In Men & Women
Its important to know that oral herpes doesnt always show symptoms. When it does, it usually appears as a cold sore, a group of small blisters around the lip or mouth often surrounded by red, swollen, and painful skin. You may experience tingling or burning on your lips or face before a cold sore appears. Other symptoms include sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and pain when swallowing.
The herpes virus goes through episodes of active outbreaks followed by periods without symptoms. If sores are present, thats when the virus is most contagious. However, oral herpes can still be spread when sores arent visible.
Don’t Miss: How To Know For Sure You Have Herpes
A Virus That Remains Active
After the first year, following the first episode, outbreaks become more sporadic. Genital herpes symptoms generally become milder and easier to cope with.
What we know is that after each outbreak, the virus becomes inactive. Ittravels and lodges at the end of the spinal cord. There it remains in the nerve cells, without generating any symptoms or causing any discomfort.
Periodically it becomes active and returns to the place where the infection first started. People will know they have a new outbreak when they experience the first symptoms of genital herpes again, basically pain or itching in the genital areas.
How Is Oral Herpes Diagnosed
Oral herpes presents similarly to other infections and allergic reactions. The only way to know for sure that you have herpes is to undergo a virus culture test, blood test, or biopsy.
You or your doctor might assume you have a herpes infection based on an incidence of exposure and/or location of the sores, but this isnt definitive like a test.
For example, if you know your spouse has herpes simplex 1 and you develop symptoms, youve likely been infected.
Recommended Reading: How Long Does It Take To Treat Herpes
Maternal And Neonatal Herpes
If a woman is infected with the HSV during pregnancy, it is possible for the virus to be passed on to the newborn baby, normally during delivery. Although this is rare, the resulting neonatal herpes can pose serious risks to newborns.
Signs that a pregnant woman is infected with the herpes simplex virus are the same as those in non-pregnant people. The risk of neonatal herpes is highest in cases where the pregnant woman develops herpes for the first time in the late stages of pregnancy, as the body is unlikely to have the necessary antibodies for combatting the virus. Women with HSV in a latent form, i.e. who have had the virus previously without recurrence, have a very low risk of passing the virus onto the newborn baby.
Good to know: When acute/florid HSV infection is present around the time of the expected date of delivery, a Cesarean birth will usually be recommended before the waters break to avoid the transmission of infection from mother to child.
Signs that a newborn baby has neonatal herpes include:
- Blue skin and tongue
If there is a suspicion of neonatal herpes, a doctor or midwife should be contacted as a matter of urgency. Treatment will typically involve the use of antiviral drugs administered intravenously over several weeks.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
Recommended Reading: How To Dry Out Herpes
Can Herpes Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent getting herpes is to not have sex with anyone who has the virus. It can be spread even when the person who has it isnt showing any symptoms. If your partner has herpes, there is no way of knowing for sure that you wont get it.
There is no time that is completely safe to have sex and not spread herpes. If you have herpes, you must tell your sex partner. You should avoid having sex if you have any sores. Herpes can spread from one person to another very easily when sores are present.
You should use condoms every time you have sex. They can help reduce the risk of spreading herpes. But its still possible to spread or get herpes if youre using a condom.
Also Check: Can You Use Acyclovir Cream On Genital Herpes
How Can You Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for protecting you from disease-causing microorganisms. But just like us humans, it can get tired and even fail to do its job at times. If its not properly cared for it is at a higher risk of being weak or failing.
Making consistent lifestyle changes can boost your immune system. It can also protect you and help you to heal faster from viruses such as herpes. Herpes viruses that continue to worsen or reoccur can be associated with a weakened immune system or delayed immune response. This means that it can be extra important to do what you can to help boost your immune system.
Also Check: Fastest Way To Heal Genital Herpes
What Are The Symptoms Of Oral Herpes
The symptoms of herpes vary a bit based on how long someone has had the infection. Newer infections tend to be more intense than those present in someone for a longer period.
Initially, symptoms of a herpes outbreak might include headache, swollen lymph nodes, and flu-like symptoms. However, some people contract herpes and experience no symptoms other than sores.
Subsequent infections can include milder flu-like symptoms, but this often isnt the case. The primary symptoms of a herpes recurrence are sores in the mouth or around the edges of the mouth.
In general, symptoms include:
- Itching or tingling around the mouth at the site where a sore eventually develops
- Fluid-filled blisters that leak and develop into crusted over sores
Not everyone experiences sores after their initial outbreak. The severity and duration of symptoms all depend on how your body responds to the virus.
Can Oral Herpes Come Back
Oral herpes sores can come back. The virus remains in your body forever once youve contracted it.
However, it can remain dormant for a certain period and then reactivate. When this occurs, a person is likely to develop mild symptoms, including sores.
Some people refer to this as herpes coming back, even though its better described as a flare-uporrecurrence.
Also Check: At Home Test For Herpes
Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Herpes Blister Fast
You Can Be Infected And Not Know It
BEWARE! The majority of individuals who are infected with HSV-1 will NOT exhibit any symptoms. And even without the physical presence of a blister or sore HSV-1 can still be spread. Depending on the severity of the outbreak an HSV-1 infection is often mistaken for a severe case of dry/chapped lips, pimples or a rash.
Recommended Reading: How Does Someone Get Herpes
How Are Oral Herpes Simplex Virus Infections Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will examine you and carefully look at your blisters. He may ask if you have other medical conditions. He will also need to know when the sores started, along with your other symptoms. You may also need any of the following:
- Fluid sample: A sample is taken from the affected area and checked under the microscope or sent for other testing.
- Blood tests: Your blood is tested for antibodies and to see if you have been exposed to HSV. The tests may also show if you have developed antibodies from exposure to HSV.
- Biopsy: This is a procedure used to remove a small piece of tissue from the ulcer. This sample is then sent to the lab for tests.