THE BLOG
05/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Mouth Health: Oral Sex And Cold Sores

I hate to be a killjoy and all that, but we need to talk about oral sex, herpes, and cold sores. Yes, right now.

When engaging in the act of oral sex (or any other type of sex, for that matter), the last thing that either partner wants to worry about is the possible contraction of a sexually transmitted disease. While the concept of "safe sex" is always a necessary precaution, during intimacy there are instances that things can go wrong. One of the most common STD situations that can occur is the transmission of herpes related cold sores to the genital area.

Let me be frank -- Oral Herpes is a very contagious disease. It is more commonly known as "cold sores," or Herpes Simplex Type 1. Since these innocent sounding cold sores contain the actual virus, it can be transferred very easily to another person. Even basic non-sexual contact with the affected area can quickly spread the disease. This means that acts such as sharing a glass, an eating utensil, a toothbrush or even using the same towel can spread the particles. So it's not just oral sex.

Due to the contagious nature of cold sores, engaging in oral sex is a fast way to infect other people in places they don't want to be infected. While passing bodily fluids through intimate contacts such as kissing would seem to be the obvious way to transmit the virus, mouth to genital contact can spread the virus to other areas of the body. At this point, what started as oral herpes can evolve to genital herpes. In an interesting twist, it is rare for a person to get oral herpes from performing oral sex on a person with on outbreak of genital herpes. However, let's be on the safe side and just watch TV that night, ok?

Ok, now I've ruined your evening, let's talk about this a little more.

So what does one look for when it comes to detecting cold sore symptoms? In most cases, the onset of symptoms become visible fairly soon after infection, so those affected can know what to look for to seek treatment, while unaffected people have a way to improve their chances of avoiding the virus. Some cases do not experience any symptoms at all, which makes the detection of cold sores very difficult to detect.

Oral herpes symptoms will usually last about a week. The symptoms are defined by a reddening of the affected area, blistering sores, and dry, crusty skin. The affected areas are also known to itch, but it is highly important not to scratch the area. Doing so can spread the disease to other parts of the body. And as mentioned earlier, it is important to not use the same towels or cleaning aids to avoid further and repeated contamination.

Genital herpes is similar to oral herpes in its symptoms and frequency. The affected area will suffer a rash for its initial outbreak, which will then evolve into blisters, and start to scab. This type of herpes is also as highly contagious, but mostly just before and during the viral shedding period.

The first question that may come to mind if one is unfortunate enough to contract oral or genital herpes is: "Is it curable?" Unfortunately, the answer is "No." Once a person contracts the Herpes Simplex 1 virus, it stays with them the rest of their lives. Outbreaks may only occur as little as once or twice in a person's lifetime, but make no mistake: It remains contagious, and under the right conditions, repeated outbreaks are possible.

Although the condition is permanent, the virus is fairly harmless, and can be maintained through various antiviral agents prescribed by a doctor. These medicines will keep the virus symptoms in check, reducing and potentially eliminating the symptoms.

Due to the incurable nature of cold sores, it is important to want to avoid this situation like the plague. While the situation sounds bad, an affected person can still live a pretty normal life. But in order to prevent further complications, it is important to just take care of oneself, avoid stress, eat well, stick to a regular sleep schedule, and practicing clean hygiene. In other words: Keep a healthy lifestyle, and likely the same routine that was already maintained before contraction.

As with any virus, it is important to consult with and get treatment from a doctor or dentist. Even though a person may have cold sores, affection and touching does not have to stop altogether. With that in mind, it is important to engage precaution by using appropriate protection, and keeping away from infected areas during an outbreak until the flare up passes. Yes, this means abstain whenever any symptoms / sores are present.

This isn't as hard as it sounds - really, there's some good TV on these days!