About Oral Herpes - How You Get It and How You Treat It

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What Is Oral Herpes?

Oral herpes, also known as HSV-1, is a type of infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. (HSV-2 is an infection caused by the genital herpes virus.) The most telling signs that a person has oral herpes are fever blisters or cold sores located around the mouth or on other parts of the face.

How Do You Get It?

Oral herpes is contagious and is passed through person to person contact. This contact could be the result of kissing, sharing lip products like lipstick, or using the same eating utensils as a person already infected. Sometimes even children can become infected by oral herpes because they have come into contact with an infected adult. It is possible for a person to become infected with genital herpes after coming into contact with a person infected by oral herpes during certain sexual acts. Unlike genital herpes, even if a person is not experiencing a breakout, it is possible to spread oral herpes to another person. This can be a real challenge when it comes to dating with the oral herpes virus.

Who Is More At Risk for Oral Herpes?

There are no limitations when it comes to who can be affected by oral herpes. Because it is transferred from one person to another, anyone can be at risk. Even a baby can be at risk if at the time of giving birth, the mother has genital herpes. The result could mean that a child is affected by one of the different versions of the virus. Some people tend to be at a higher risk because of certain characteristics or behaviors that could play a role in spreading the virus.

A female has a higher risk of getting oral herpes than a male. Those with multiple sex partners or those already suffering from an STI (sexually transmitted infection), tend to be at a higher risk as well. Finally, individuals that have a weaker immune system are also more likely to contract the virus when coming into contact with it.

How Do You Know You Have It?

Because oral herpes can be contracted from person to person even when an outbreak isn't present, it could take a while for a person to realize that he or she has it. During this time, it is still possible to transmit the virus to another person. This makes dating a challenge because it isn't always noticeable if a potential partner has oral herpes. In some cases infected individuals will have blistering sores in or around the mouth area. In addition to the oral sores, some infected individuals find themselves suffering from flu-like symptoms. This includes things like exhaustion, fever, lack of appetite, and even a headache.

How Is It Diagnosed?

It is best to seek out assistance from a physician if a person believes he or she may have oral herpes. While the sores on the mouth are a symptom of oral herpes, a physician may still set up a test called a herpes culture to confirm the suspected diagnosis. Because sores are not always present with oral herpes, doctors can also order a blood test that will find out the levels of antibodies for both strains of the herpes simplex virus.

How Do You Treat It?

Once a person contracts either form of herpes, it will stay with him or her forever and there is no cure for the infection. It is important to note that some people will have oral herpes and never see any actual breakouts. Others will see frequent outbreaks. Things like illness, exposure to the sun, and even stress can cause an oral herpes breakout.

However, it is possible to limit the number of outbreaks a person has and reduce the length of time the sores are present. Even without any type of treatment, sores will go away; however, most people appreciate the shortened amount of time a breakout is visible.

There are three main medications that physicians prescribe to patients suffering from oral herpes. Acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are all commonly prescribed to not just reduce the intensity of breakouts but also decrease the chance that an infected individual will spread oral herpes to another person. These medications can also reduce the times a person has a breakout. While most people choose to take the medication in pill form, if a case is severe enough, a physician can provide the medication through a shot. For those looking to start dating with the oral herpes virus, these medications can help.

How Can You Prevent It From Spreading?

Because there is no cure for oral herpes, it is important for infected individuals to try and prevent the spread of the virus. If an outbreak of oral herpes is taking place, an individual should attempt to avoid coming into physical contact with other people. This includes taking a break from any type of sexual activity. Items that can carry the virus such as chapstick, utensils, clothing and even cups should not be shared with other people. A person's hands tend to come into contact with the sores during the course of treatment, therefore it is important to consistently wash the hands and keep them as clean as possible.

For more information on oral herpes, check out these links:

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