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Old 03-04-2004, 04:49 PM   #1
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Reina90 HB User
cold sores and oral sex question

Hi everyone,
I am rather concerned right now. I have gotten cold sores since I was a kid and usually get one maybe once every few years. I just broke out a few days ago and all these questions are coming up in my head. First of all, since I have a cold sore I realize I am contagious so I'm not performing oral sex on my boyfriend or kissing him. I'm also making sure that my hands are clean before I go to the bathroom or wash myself in the genital region. I'm absolutley terrified of getting genital herpes. So my main concern right now is giving this to my boyfriend through oral sex. My understanding is that even though I don't get cold sores very much, it is possible for me to pass the virus on even when there are no visible signs of it. This is correct right? My question then is, should I not be performing oral sex on my boyfriend EVER?? Even when I don't have a cold sore? Should I never give oral sex??? I've given oral sex before without any signs of a cold sore -- what are the chances I infected my partner? Please help...

 
Old 03-04-2004, 05:24 PM   #2
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movingrightalong HB User
Re: cold sores and oral sex question

hi jayland,
welcome to the board.
In that you have had oral herpes for a long time, are you usually able to tell when you have a sore coming on? From when you feel like you may be getting a cold sore until a few days after the sore has healed is the most contagious time. Obviously an active sore is the most contagious. In between times there is the "asymptomatic shedding" factor, when the virus may be shedding from your skin with no sores present. There research out there varies as far as the estimated percentage of the days that you're asymptomatically shedding the virus. It would seem that the vast majority of days without any stages of a sore you would be A-OK to go down on him, but there will always be some sort of risk. As long as you've discussed it with your boyfriend it's up to you to to determine if you are both comfortable with that.

 
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Old 03-04-2004, 06:03 PM   #3
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Re: cold sores and oral sex question

movingrightalong, thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate it. As far as I can remember, I can usually tell when I am going to get a cold sore because I get this tingling sensation on my lip. However, the one I just got, came on suddenly with no apparent warning. Three days before that I performed oral sex on my boyfriend. I'm really worried about this right now. I would be devastated if I gave it to him. And it would be completely my fault if I did because until recently I didn't know very much about Herpes or that cold sores are in fact a form of herpes. I guess I never looked into this more because before now, my last outbreak was when I was 15 years old..this was 4 years ago and before I was sexually active. There was no need for me to be worried about it then since I was not sexually active. Well, in those four years, I guess I forgot about cold sores..until now that is. Now I am 19-years-old, sexually active, and am trying to grasp how big a deal this actually is. This is the first time I've experienced a cold sore with my boyfriend and no, I haven't discussed it with him yet except to tell him that I'm contagious and contact with my mouth is not a good idea. I don't think he is aware that it is a form of herpes and that it can be passed from mouth to genitals even when there are no symtoms present. At the moment, I'm not going near him with my mouth. I'm just trying to understand things before I talk to him, which I am planning on, as well as figure out a good way to tell him all this. I'm just really scared. Not sure how to talk to him about this. I read that 80% of the population is infected with Herpes virus 1. This means that most likely, he is infected as well and could pass it on to me through oral sex. Does this mean we should always have protected oral sex? I don't know what to do..I'm just having a hard time evaluating and understanding the risks involved here...

 
Old 03-05-2004, 12:49 PM   #4
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ly_b HB User
Re: cold sores and oral sex question

Hi jayland,

I have genital HSV1 from a cold sore. I have had HSV1 orally in the form of cold sores for years, and never infected myself genitally. However, someone who was just starting to get a cold sore performed oral sex on me and I got HSV1.

Many people and websites say that if you already have HSV1 orally, it's very rare to get HSV1 genitally. In fact, no studies have been done into it, so it could be more common than we think. I think perhaps it is that many of those getting HSV1 can't ever remember having had a cold sore - but you are right, up to 80% of the population have the virus, and many contracted it as children and don't remember having the cold sores. Having managed to get the disease in both places despite having antibodies, I am not convinced that antibodies work.

HOWEVER, I was exposed to an active sore. Prior to the sexual partner who gave me HSV1 I was involved with someone else who had HSV1, but who had only had one cold sore, as a kid. She didn't get any cold sores while I was with her; I did. But we avoided oral sex during my active breakouts and neither of us got HSV1 from the asymptomatic shedding.

I think the answer then is this, which you already know. Certainly DO NOT have oral sex when you have a cold sore - even if you are with someone who has HSV1 orally already as an active sore may be too high a level of virus for their antibodies to deal with. But you know this already, which is cool. I didn't know until I was 20 and met my first girlfriend that cold sores could be passed on to the genitals, and I was really careful with her - typical that I should get genital herpes myself! Although I have only had 2 breakouts, right when I was infected, and nothing since (pretty typical of genital HSV1, which tends to be milder than both oral HSV1 and genital HSV2).

Regarding asymptomatic shedding: those with oral HSV1 do tend to shed asymptomatically - I have read anything up to 18% of the time, which sounds a lot to me, but that wouldn't be for everyone. In most cases, the degree of asymptomatic shedding is connected to the number of outbreaks you have. Whilst it isn't true for everyone, someone who gets a cold sore every month is likely to asymptomatically shed more than someone who gets one once a year, etc.

Those already infected with HSV1 are, it seems, unlikely to get HSV1 through asymptomatic shedding (though I really can't stress enough after all I have been through: do NOT TAKE risks with active sores or that itchy tingling) BUT if you are with someone who does not have HSV1 already there is a significantly higher risk of passing on HSV1 genitally. You could use protection whilst having oral sex which would reduce the risk somewhat.

One bright side is the relative mildness of HSV1 - for most people. Though a minority get frequent and / or severe genital HSV1 outbreaks, the virus in general is weaker than HSV2. HSV1 oral breakouts are rarer than HSV2 genital breakouts, and HSV1 genital breakouts occur probably less than half as often as oral HSV1. One thing to bear in mind is that even though you would have genital herpes if you contracted HSV1 genitally, it would be the exact same virus you have had on your mouth all these years and coped with, simply in a different place. Society would perceive genital HSV1 to be worse than oral HSV1, which makes no sense when it's the same virus and in fact, when it is less likely to be a problem genitally than orally - i.e., less breakouts (e.g. 60-70% of those with HSV1 genitally only ever get the one breakout - much like those with oral HSV1. Whilst 30% of new genital herpes cases are HSV1, only between 2-5% of recurrent episodes are HSV1 - with the rest of course being HSV2) and significantly less asymptomatic shedding (it's thought to be around 3% of the time that HSV1 sheds genitally although again, of course, this varies from person to person).

I would read some posts on here and try to be as safe as you can. Good luck.

 
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Old 03-06-2004, 05:58 AM   #5
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Re: cold sores and oral sex question

There's one obvious answer. You said you wash your hands before going to the bathroom because you know, as we all do, that washing with soap kills germs. If, when you have no signs of an outbreak, you perform oral sex on him, have him wash his whole genital region afterwards with soap and water for over 20 seconds. Before doing it, remember to question yourself to see if you've had some symptoms but just didn't notice them. And, finally, make sure he has no little cuts or pimples on or near his penis before doing it, as they would provide a doorway for the virus to enter more easily.

Of course, you need to talk with him before going down on him again.

 
Old 03-07-2004, 10:04 AM   #6
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Reina90 HB User
Re: cold sores and oral sex question

Thanks so much for your replies folks.
Backpacker (or anyone), so are you saying that since I get outbreaks, the chances of me spreading herpes when I have no symtoms present are higher than for someone who has herpes but doesn't get outbreaks? I'm asking because, as what's been said, 80% of the population is infected with HSV1 and a lot of these people don't get symptoms. Since I get symtoms is it more likely for me to have asymtomatic shedding and thus, be more contagious?? You said that my boyfriend should wash up everytime he receives oral sex from me even if I don't have an outbreak or any sign there of. Should I be washing up too? Should everyone be washing up their genitals everytime they have oral sex? Just for my understanding right now, I'm going to assume that my boyfriend has HSV1 but with no OBs ever. So the story is that we both have HSV1, but I get outbreaks once in a while, and he does not. So can't he just as easily pass the virus to me through asymptomatic shedding? If this is the case, should we both be washing ourselves after oral sex? Or is it correct that since I get outbreaks, it more likely for me to pass the virus on even when I have no symtoms present than it is for someone who doesn't get outbreaks but has the virus?

 
Old 03-07-2004, 10:23 AM   #7
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ly_b HB User
Re: cold sores and oral sex question

Quote:
Originally Posted by jayland
Thanks so much for your replies folks.
Backpacker (or anyone), so are you saying that since I get outbreaks, the chances of me spreading herpes when I have no symtoms present are higher than for someone who has herpes but doesn't get outbreaks? I'm asking because, as what's been said, 80% of the population is infected with HSV1 and a lot of these people don't get symptoms. Since I get symtoms is it more likely for me to have asymtomatic shedding and thus, be more contagious?? You said that my boyfriend should wash up everytime he receives oral sex from me even if I don't have an outbreak or any sign there of. Should I be washing up too? Should everyone be washing up their genitals everytime they have oral sex? Just for my understanding right now, I'm going to assume that my boyfriend has HSV1 but with no OBs ever. So the story is that we both have HSV1, but I get outbreaks once in a while, and he does not. So can't he just as easily pass the virus to me through asymptomatic shedding? If this is the case, should we both be washing ourselves after oral sex? Or is it correct that since I get outbreaks, it more likely for me to pass the virus on even when I have no symtoms present than it is for someone who doesn't get outbreaks but has the virus?
As I understand it, someone who gets recurrent cold sores is more likely to be contagious when not having outbreaks, through asymptomatic shedding, than someone who doesn't get cold sores - but there are really no hard and fast rules and many people have got HSV1 genitally from oral sex with those who don't ever remember having a cold sore. But I think you are right, your risk of passing on the virus is probably (no guarantees) that little bit higher.

 
Old 03-07-2004, 10:53 AM   #8
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Re: cold sores and oral sex question

Couldn't hurt to wash, could it? And it may help a great deal. Since you know for sure you have it, it would be a good precaution for him. And if he's washing afterwards, well, you go ahead too.

 
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