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Is it possible to acquire herpes through kissing?

por EjaGuard Delay Spray 07 May 2024

Given that herpes is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections, is it possible for it to spread through kissing?

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 are infected with oral herpes. Surprisingly, many individuals with oral herpes are unaware of their infection, either because they do not exhibit symptoms or because they do not recognize them.

This leads to the question: Is it possible to contract herpes through kissing?

In short, the answer is yes, but before you panic, it's important to understand how herpes spreads. This knowledge is crucial for protecting both yourself and your partner.

Keep reading, as in this article, we'll address all your pressing questions about oral herpes. By doing so, you'll be equipped to stay proactive, informed, and safe regarding the potential risks associated with kissing.

Can herpes be transmitted through kissing?

The act of kissing can be a passionate and intimate expression of affection toward a partner, fling, or friend with benefits. Unfortunately, it also carries the risk of contracting herpes.

Oral herpes, also known as HSV-1, is a viral infection that manifests as cold sores around the mouth, lips, throat, gums, or on the face.

When these symptoms appear, it is referred to as an "outbreak," which is the most contagious stage of the virus. During this period, the virus is more likely to spread through skin-to-skin contact, including kissing.

However, it's essential to recognize that herpes can also be transmitted without visible symptoms of the virus.

How can you tell if someone has herpes?

It replicates within the skin cells, leading to uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. This stage is typically when the infection is at its most contagious.

According to Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist Dr. Thais Aliabadi, herpes symptoms can emerge anywhere from 2 to 10 days after the initial infection and may persist for up to 3 weeks.

Common symptoms include:

  • Blisters or sores (small fluid-filled bumps that typically develop in clusters)
  • Itching, tingling, and/or pain
  • Redness
  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Achy or sore muscles

Symptoms can be triggered by menstruation, hormonal fluctuations, sun exposure, stress, and fever.

What are the two most common types of herpes viruses?

There are up to eight different types of herpes viruses that infect humans. However, only two of them are more commonly recognized.

The two most common types include:

1. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1):
This virus is associated with oral herpes, often appearing as cold sores or blisters around the mouth, lips, throat, gums, or on the face.

2. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2):
This virus is linked to genital herpes, characterized by sores or blisters in the genital area, including the vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, buttocks, or inner thighs.

How does herpes spread through kissing?

Since kissing involves a combination of direct and skin-to-skin contact, along with the transfer of saliva, it provides an ideal environment for viral transmission.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it is also possible for oral herpes to cause genital herpes, and vice versa. Both are more likely to spread through kissing and oral sex.

Is there a particular type of kissing more likely to transmit oral herpes?

For instance, French kissing or deep kissing involves prolonged lip locking and more exchange of saliva.

While the risk of transmitting oral herpes through closed-mouth kissing is lower compared to French or deep kissing, it is still possible for the virus to be passed on through skin-to-skin contact (i.e., lips to lips only).

Is it possible to transmit herpes to someone without experiencing an active outbreak?

After an outbreak, the herpes virus retreats back into the nerve cells, where it becomes inactive or "shuts off" temporarily. Although many symptoms of the outbreak subside, the virus can reactivate at a later time, leading to another outbreak.

Even though there are no visible symptoms when the virus is dormant, it can still be contagious and spread from person to person through kissing.

Can herpes be transmitted through sharing lip balm or lipstick?

Yes, herpes can be transmitted through mouth-to-mouth contact, so it can spread simply by sharing lip balm or lipstick.

As mentioned earlier, it is much more contagious during an active outbreak when a person is currently experiencing symptoms.

How can I minimize the risk of transmitting oral herpes?

To minimize the risk of spreading oral herpes, consider the following:

1. Avoid contact with the lips, mouth, or skin of anyone experiencing an active oral herpes outbreak.

2. Refrain from kissing or sharing personal items that require skin-to-skin contact (such as cups, cutlery, towels, etc.) while you or your partner has an active cold sore outbreak.

3. Wash your hands regularly, especially after touching a cold sore.

4. Use lip balms or creams containing sunscreen on the cold sore to protect from sun exposure.

5. Communicate with your partner about symptoms, flare-ups, or outbreaks.

6. Use clean and sanitized sex toys and dental dams during intercourse and oral sex.

7. Speak to your healthcare provider about antiviral medications to minimize outbreak frequency and severity (such as Valtrex or Zovirax).


1. Oral herpes is a widespread virus affecting 3.7 billion people under the age of 50, and many individuals may be unaware of their infection.

2. The transmission of oral herpes through kissing is due to direct skin-to-skin contact and the exchange of saliva.

3. Understanding how herpes spreads and implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting the virus.

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