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Can Cold Sores Give Me Genital Herpes?


Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Young woman touching lips, close-up
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Question: Can Cold Sores Give Me Genital Herpes?
Answer: Although the majority of the time, HSV-1 infects the lips and HSV-2 infects the genitals, it is possible to transmit the two herpes viruses to their less preferred sites during oral sex. In fact, HSV-1 accounts for approximately one half of all cases of genital herpes in developed countries... so much for it "just" causing cold sores or, for that matter, for cold sores being protective against a genital herpes infection.


Gupta R, Warren T, Wald A. "Genital herpes." Lancet. 2007 Dec 22;370(9605):2127-37.

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  3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
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  6. Cold Sores Can Become Genital Herpes Through Oral Sex

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