Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wake up call - Cold sores are sexually transmittable.

If you get cold sores on your mouth from time to time, chances are that at some point in your life, someone has mentioned to you that cold sores are actually herpes. They probably reassured you that, no, not that kind of herpes. You may have been led to believe that genital herpes are totally different, and are type 2 herpes, while cold sores are type 1.

While it is true that a case of genital herpes is commonly type 2, especially if the outbreaks are recurrent, a genital herpes outbreak can also be caused by type 1, a.k.a. the common cold sore virus. It is transmitted from the mouth of the person who gets cold sores, to the genitals of the person they give oral sex to.

For some reason, people are not being told that cold sores are sexually transmittable, not even by their doctors.

Cold sores are in their own category as far as STDs go, because they are not an STD, but they do have the potential to become one for someone else. This can happen even if the person giving oral sex is not having a cold sore at the time. (Herpes is a virus and can be contageous even when you're not having symptoms. Most people who have type 1 orally are contageous about 18% of the time.)

The majority of the population already has type 1 orally and is almost 100% immune to getting it on their genitals. This is because their body already hosts the virus, and has produced antibodies against it throughout the entire body. Most people are exposed during childhood, by relatives or by another child.

But the minority of the population who somehow manages to escape childhood without being exposed to this pesky virus have the potential to get type 1 orally or genitally as an adult.

Just because you have never gotten a cold sore, it does not mean that you don't already have type 1 orally. For some people, the virus just goes dormant and never causes a sore - you may have it and never even get a cold sore in your life. For others, it continually reactivates and causes sores on the mouth, especially after getting too much sun or when you have a cold or fever (hence the terms "cold sore" and "fever blister.")

For those infected genitally, most get an initial or primary genital outbreak soon after exposure, which may resemble a classic type 2 outbreak. But luckily, after that, most will never get another recurrence. The virus will go dormant and stay dormant, because type 1's home territory is the mouth. While type 1 can infect the genital area, it does not prefer to live there. (Despite that, some will get a recurrence about once every two years on average, while an unlucky few will get regular recurrences more similar to a pattern of type 2 herpes.)

The source of a genital type 1 herpes infection is almost always a person who gets cold sores on their mouth. Very rarely is the source someone else who has it genitally, since they are only contageous 0-5% of the time.

More than half of the population has type 1 herpes. It is estimated that more like three quarters of people have it by adulthood. And by age 50, a whoppping 90% have it.

So, if you get tpye 1 herpes genitally (GHSV1), you may feel that you are somehow dirty or tainted. The reality is, you are actually much less contageous than the majority of the population!

While people who get GHSV1 fret and freak out and worry about passing this virus on, those with cold sores usually carry on without a second thought. But they are actually the ones with a much higher potential to give someone an STD.

Even those who are aware of this usually remain too embarassed to bring it up to a new sexual partner.

So what the heck is the solution? If you have type 1 orally, you can't live in fear of giving oral sex. If you are type 1 negative, you can't live in fear of recieving oral sex. Most people are unwilling to use dental dams or condoms for oral sex, so it's a risk we take. If it happens to you, luckily GHSV1 is usually not recurrent, and is not highly contageous. So for many, it can be initially traumatic, but then becomes a non-issue.

It is no one's responsibility but your own to know about the risks and educate yourself about type 1 herpes. Understand that most people are not educated about it, so you need to be your own advocate. Consider having a talk about type 1 herpes with your partner, whether you have it orally, genitally, or not at all. Cringeworthy, but the right thing is not always the easiest thing.


Edward said...

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Anonymous said...

Just a reminder. If you have oral herpes (regardless of type), you can give yourself genital herpes by transferring it from your mouth to genitals on your fingers (or whatever else). Pass on the message. I wish I had known this!

Travis said...

I freakin hate cold sores. I've suffered from them my life. It seems like no matter what I do, one will pop up every few months. I have discovered a few ways to make them go away faster however.

Anonymous said...

I'm newly diagnosed with cold sores and I immediately disclosed it to my newer partner. He accepted the risk, which really surprised me, but pleased me to no end, obviously. I only wish that the last partner I had, who had cold sores, was as concerned as I am now.

ShellyLip said...

Great information!

383chick said...

so i was just rejected by a guy i fell for, and i would want a family, i would give him kids, i would take care of him, im 26 i ve been in love before but i never felt this way, he was smbd special for me, and i know he felt the same, he told me, that im the woman he really wants but cant have because i have hcv 2, and he said it makes him sad, but he cant get over this herpes barrier, and no matter how he feels about me, is not able to leave a herpes fact behind, i think it has to do with different values in life, cuz i was always looking for that one guy who i would feel i want to spend my life with, and i dont think he is looking or thinking of posibility of having that special kinda person. he relly wanted to stay friends with me though, which i couldnt accept either, cuz i feel really hurt by his rejection. i dont blame him but i cant offer him my friendship either, aghh we had so much drama, and all that is just because of the stupid fear of being rejected in the future if the relationship doesnt work out and he does get a herpes from me...thats how i interpret the situation..he is into long terms relationsip either and he was telling me he wanted a relationship with me..such a stupid situation..i made myself 100% clear about my feelings about him and then let him go..forever, now im thinking for the future im gonna have to ask all my potential boyfriends if they have herpes before start dating and deny those who doesnt have it so i dont have this stupid situation agai, how do you guys look for your mates?i would hate going to dating sites, its so unnatural for me, i tried those before, never worked:(

383chick said...

i know this is not the end of the world and i will be in love again, maybe not once... but it makes me really sad, the herpes is not a barrier itself, we are creating that barrier with our own hands, i didnt try to change his mind, educate him on herpes subject or beg him not to leave me, i was about, cuz its his descision and i respect it, and he never asked me questions about herpes, means it is not acceptable for him either way, well i hope he s gonna have what he wants in life and herpes free lol, as for me of course herpes is 100% negative thing in life, but its another challenge, and it changed me in positive way either..i would say we herpes people are fricking awesome people, whenever i m afraid of doing smth, i tell myself 'i have nothing to loose.. i have herpes', it works, try. i think i ll start socialize more and give more people a chance..because' i have nothing to loose..i have herpes' ,;) after all i need to find that one out of 5th guys who has a herpes lol, i keep embracing my hobbies, im trying to follow my path, my dreams, i never give up, im up for anything and everything, i live my life the way i want to live it,i value life and people, i m in best shape of my life, i have a six pack, i went on healthy diet, i am constantly developing, i rock, not many many people without herpes doing the same, they dont apreciate life, sex and their loved ones the way i do it as for now since i got herpes, it was a wake up call, i live now, i dont think i would be the same pwrson if i would have never had it..of course im depressed somtimes too, when i think what if the same is gonna be happwnning the rest of my life and ill be rejected all the time..good luck to you all my herpes friends, i wish to have a couple of herpes friends to talk more about it

Fay said...

Quite helpful piece of writing, thanks for the post.

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