Can You Get Herpes From Kissing: Tips For Preventing Oral Herpes

Can you get herpes from kissing? Discover how it can be transmitted through kissing and how you can stay safe from it.

The Promescent Team
Hands on, practical experience – this is our expertise
by The Promescent Team Last updated 12/11/2023
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Oral herpes, also known as cold sores, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases worldwide.

In fact, up to 80% of people carry oral herpes, and many aren't even aware of it despite being potentially contagious. In this guide, we’ll go over the risk of getting oral herpes or genital herpes.

Quick FAQs

Herpes can be transmitted by kissing, regardless of what type of kissing it is.

The herpes virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, bodily fluids, and saliva.

While the chances are smaller, it is possible to get herpes from kissing someone who doesn't currently have an active outbreak.

We’ll cover whether kissing spreads herpes, how it can spread to the genitals, plus everything else you need to know to stay safe against this lifelong virus.

Can You Get Herpes From Kissing?

Yes, you can get herpes from kissing. However, there’s a lot more to it than that.

There are two types of herpes simplex virus:

  • Oral herpes (HSV-1)
  • Genital herpes (HSV-2)

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes, which means that an outbreak from either virus type is also possible on the penis, vagina, anus, or surrounding areas. 

If a person has HSV-1 and performs oral sex, they can spread it to another person's genitals. HSV-2 is generally spread through anal or vaginal intercourse, although it can also transmit to the mouth.

HSV-1 is usually present on the lips and oral region, while HSV-2 is generally found on the genital region.

How Does Kissing Transmit Herpes?

Herpes is spread through:

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Saliva
  • Bodily fluids

Because kissing involves both direct and often prolonged skin-to-skin contact, along with saliva, it makes the transmission of herpes very likely if one partner is already infected.

HSV-1 most often spreads through:

  • Kissing
  • Oral Sex

Is There a Type of Kiss That Transmits Herpes?

If a person has HSV-1, or oral herpes, they can transmit it through any type of kiss.

There are no kisses that are more or less risky than others in regards to oral herpes.

The main way that herpes spreads is through contact with infected skin. Even a light kiss on the lips can be enough to transmit the virus.

The best way to prevent oral herpes is by not kissing someone with an active, visible outbreak.

Can You Get Herpes From Kissing Someone Without an Outbreak?

It’s possible to get herpes from kissing someone without an active outbreak, although it’s much less likely.

If a person has an active outbreak, they will likely have symptoms such as:

  • One or multiple open sores
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

During an outbreak, the virus is shedding and often at its highest viral load, which makes it much more contagious to others.

If your partner is experiencing an active outbreak, it’s best to avoid kissing to minimize the risk of transmission.

But regardless of an active or visible outbreak, the herpes virus is always inside an infected person. It may actively shed from time to time without presenting any symptoms.

While it's less likely to get herpes from an asymptomatic carrier, there's still a possibility that it could spread while kissing.

How Do You Reduce Your Risk of Oral Transmission?

1. Avoid contact

You can minimize the risk of oral herpes transmission by actively avoiding contact with the lips or skin of anyone experiencing an active oral herpes outbreak.

2. Discuss past outbreaks

If your partner has had HSV-1 outbreaks in the past, it’s important to discuss it with them. Ensure that they tell you if they ever feel any symptoms, no matter how light.

Even a slight symptom like tingling of the lips could mean that the virus is shedding. Any kissing should be avoided until the symptom subsides.

The virus itself doesn’t last long on inanimate objects. While you may not want to share cups or towels during an outbreak, the actual risk of transmission from inanimate objects is quite low.

3. Use protective barriers

As a further safeguard against oral herpes, utilize products like Lorals for Protection, which add a protective barrier during cunnilingus.

These stretchy and vanilla-scented latex panties can keep both partners safe from herpes while also adding an intimate twist to oral play. 

Along with looking good, they also add new sensations that can be effective for teasing and denial, or light BDSM.

Symptoms of HSV

Let’s look at the symptoms of HSV-1 in more detail so you better understand what to watch out for:

  • Swelling along the lip
  • Open sores
  • Heat
  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Itchiness
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

If a cold sore has formed, the symptoms will likely include:

  • A fluid-filled blister
  • Discharge from the blister
  • Possible bleeding if scratched

After the blister has ruptured, the sore may begin to crust over. At this stage the sore is beginning to heal, and it should be left alone as much as possible to reduce recovery time.

The blister phase lasts 4-7 days, and the recovery phase lasts anywhere from one to two weeks.

Remember not to scratch the sore during the healing period, as this may cause scarring.

How to Treat HSV

While there is no cure for oral herpes, there are treatments available to help reduce symptoms and potentially reduce the longevity of the outbreak.

In most cases, doctors will recommend antiviral medications to help limit the outbreak.

Oral antiviral medications may be given to those who have frequent or severe outbreaks, as they can help to limit the severity of the symptoms. However, these are often by prescription only.

In other cases, antiviral creams may help to reduce the pain, swelling, and duration of the outbreak as well. These antiviral creams can usually be purchased over-the-counter.

The general treatment plan is similar for both oral and genital herpes. The most common duration for treatment is 7-10 days, although it may be longer if recommended by a doctor.

Along with antivirals, some other ways to reduce the pain from oral herpes include:

  • Using an ice pack or warm compress
  • Not touching the area to allow it to heal
  • Keeping the area clean
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication
  • For genital herpes, wearing light clothing

While a doctor’s visit isn’t always necessary with herpes, it may be important to consult with a professional if your outbreak:

  • Isn’t healing after treatment
  • Is more painful or bothersome than usual
  • Is bleeding
  • Shows signs of an infection, such as swelling, color changes, or excessive discharge

Are There Cures For Oral Herpes?

There are currently no cures for oral herpes or genital herpes. But there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription antiviral medications that can ease the symptoms.

Takeaways

Oral herpes is a common infection that not everyone will always show symptoms of. It can be spread through any type of kissing, including closed mouth kissing.

For the best protection, avoid touching or kissing anyone with an active outbreak. In general, the transmission of herpes through inanimate objects is low.

If you’re in a relationship, let your partner know to watch out for any signs of a non-visible outbreak, such as tingling or itching, to help prevent it from spreading.

By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of contracting oral herpes.

The Promescent Team

The Promescent Team

Our team has over a decade of experience in the sexual wellness field and are experts in sexual dysfunctions, like premature ejaculation. We help couples and individuals better understand treatment options available for different types of sexual needs and educate the public on all things related to intimacy. All of our authored content is medically reviewed for accuracy and reliability.

Sources:

Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can find out more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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