Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/11/2021
This common virus causes cold sores around the lips and on the gums, with most people experiencing an outbreak once a year, give or take.
Many people who show no oral herpes symptoms are asymptomatic, meaning they’re infected with the HSV-1 virus but don’t have oral herpes sores or other visible herpes symptoms.
Because of this, a very large percentage of people with HSV-1 aren’t even aware that they’re infected.
However, typical visible herpes symptoms include visible cold sores and lesions on or around the mouth, fever, tingling on the mouth or lips, headache, etc. (especially during an initial outbreak).
Of course, unless you suspect you may be suffering from an initial outbreak, it's best to just keep your eyes peeled for visible lesions.
Unfortunately, it's not a myth. HSV-1, or oral herpes, is spread through direct contact, which means it is possible to become infected if you kiss a person that has the virus.
In fact, even if that person isn’t experiencing an outbreak or showing any symptoms of the virus, they can still spread it to you via a process called asymptomatic viral shedding.
Even if it’s just a peck on the lips, it’s still enough contact to spread the virus under the right circumstances.
It’s important to understand that HSV-1 and HSV-2 are different types of the herpes virus. While HSV-1 is extremely common and primarily appears on and around the mouth, it can be spread to the genitals if you receive oral sex from someone with an outbreak (or give someone oral sex while you have an active outbreak).
Read our guide Can You Get Herpes From Oral Sex? for more information on this.
HSV-2 (more commonly referred to as genital herpes) usually only affects the genitals and is very rare in other parts of the body.
In short, yes, you can get herpes from kissing. In fact — and unfortunately — kissing is one of the most common ways that oral herpes spreads.
It’s also possible to pick up HSV-1 from sharing a cup or utensils with someone infected with the virus, although this is extremely uncommon, as the virus can only live for a short period while in saliva.
While some persistent myths might state otherwise, it is extremely unlikely that you may get herpes from a towel, toilet bowl, swimming pool or bathtub that other people have used, meaning there’s very little need to worry about being infected if you share a home with someone that has oral herpes.
However, if you do get oral herpes, there’s also no need to panic.
Remember: oral herpes is an extremely common virus that affects a majority of the world's population. It's not pleasant or convenient, but it happens.
Luckily, it's also a virus that’s manageable using medications such as valacyclovir.
Our Valacyclovir 101 guide covers everything you’ll need to know about this widely available, affordable and safe oral herpes medication.
In summary, oral herpes is a common condition that can easily spread from one infected person to another through kissing.
As a result, do not kiss someone if you have a cold sore. It’s also best to avoid oral sex until the cold sore heals, as even HSV-1 (the form of herpes that affects the lips and mouth) can be transferred through oral sex.
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