For example: if you get cold sores on the mouth, you can pass it on through kissing or by giving oral sex. If you have herpes on the genitals you can pass it on from genital-to-genital rubbing or when receiving oral sex. You can’t pass on genital herpes by kissing.
You are most contagious when you have symptoms. Symptoms commonly look like a raised fluid filled lump on the skin called a blister. These will eventually break on their own and then scab over. Some people will have less obvious symptoms which look more like an unexplained cut in the skin. People who get symptoms a few times may notice a tingling sensation or ache just before symptoms become visible. This is called prodromal symptoms and is also a contagious time.
Condoms and dental dams work by creating a barrier to infected skin. Using these all the time, even when there are no symptoms, will prevent most infections. However, condoms and dams may not work 100% as herpes can be on areas of skin not completely covered.
Taking anti-viral medication can decrease your symptoms which is the period of time you’re most contagious. Taking the medication every day also decreases the risk of passing herpes when there are no symptoms; it makes a low risk time an almost a no-risk time.
There is no risk of getting herpes from usual household contact including sharing showers, toilets or washing machines. You won’t even get if from a sharing a bed. It requires direct skin-to-skin contact.
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