Can You Get Herpes From Oral Sex?

Hello Heather,

I was just wondering… can you get herpes from oral sex? Or is regular sex the only way you can get it? I always thought that having oral sex kept you safe from STDs, but recently one of my friends told me that’s not true and now I’m pretty freaked out.

I’m not trying to freak you out here, but your friend was right – you can most definitely contract herpes through oral sex. STDs can be tricky and sneaky… actual intercourse is not the only way you can spread them.

Herpes is spread through contact, especially when a person has visible sores. Genital herpes is spread through sexual contact, which means not only intercourse, but also anal and oral sex. So, yes, if you go down on someone who is infected with herpes, you can also get it. The scary thing about herpes is that it’s extremely common and most people infected with it don’t even realize they have it.

The herpes virus can be especially tricky because of something called viral shedding. The herpes virus makes a home in our nerve cells and can travel along the nerves – this is referred to as viral shedding. It means that there doesn’t have to be a sore present in order to spread the virus. Basically, this means that you contract herpes without even realizing that the person you’re hooking up with has herpes! Blisters or sores sometimes accompany viral shedding, but they don’t always – it can happen without anyone knowing. So, even if there are no sores down there, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. This is why it’s SO important to get tested for these sorts of things.

If you’re worried that you might have contracted herpes through oral sex, keep the symptoms in mind. Symptoms include one or more sores or blisters around the genitals, rectum or mouth. I’m not just talking about a tiny sore – these are painful and can take up to two-four weeks to heal. The very first time someone has a herpes outbreak, they might also experience things like a fever, body aches and/or swollen glands. If you notice blisters in your genital area or in your mouth after hooking up with someone, you should see a doctor to be tested. Keep in mind that sometimes people infected with herpes show no symptoms. Again, this is why it’s so important to regularly get tested for STDs when you’re sexually active.

Herpes isn’t the only thing that can be passed along during oral sex. You can also contract STDs like gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis and HPV. Oral sex has even been linked to throat cancer. If you enjoy performing and receiving oral sex, you need to make sure you’re protecting yourself. And, yes, I’m talking about condoms. I know that sounds silly and ridiculous, but it’s not if you don’t want to catch something serious! Sorry for repeating myself once more, but you should also regularly be getting tested – and if you’re going to perform oral sex on a new partner, make sure they’re tested as well.

None of this is meant to make you panic, but if you plan on being sexually active (whether you’re a virgin or not), you need to be informed about these sorts of things. Don’t assume that just because you’re not having intercourse means you’re safe from STDs. Don’t beat yourself up for this, but remember it in the future!

take care,
Heather

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2 Comments

  1. avatar Dannie says:

    Yes, JayTee – cold sores are a form of herpes, but they are spread through touch and kiss. You don’t need to be sexually active to get cold sores.

  2. avatar JayTee says:

    What about cold sores? I heard that’s a form of herpes. Like, herpes simplex or something.i get cold sores (and have been since i was a young child)but i have never been sexually active. (Besides a kiss.) Does that mean anyone who gets cold sores has herpes.

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