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Can I get a cold sore on my tongue?


Updated February 03, 2014

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herpes cold sore

An outbreak of herpes sores on a child's face. Similar blisters appear on the genitals during a genital herpes outbreak.

Photo courtesy of the CDC/ Dr. K. L. Hermann
Question: Can I get a cold sore on my tongue?
Most people think of cold sores as an annoyance, which they pretty much are. However, it is important to know that they are a contagious annoyance, caused by the herpes virus, and they can be transmitted by both kissing and oral sex. In fact, cold sores tend to run in families because they are so easy to spread by even the types of casual familial affection that people experience growing up.
Answer: Cold sores are generally caused by the HSV-1 virus, although they can also be caused by HSV-2, the virus more commonly associated with genital herpes. Most people get cold sores around their lips; however, they can affect other areas of the face, body, and mouth as well.

Although recurrent herpes outbreaks inside the mouth aren't terribly common in otherwise healthy individuals, it is possible to get cold sores on your tongue, the roof of your mouth, and even on your gums. During times of high stress you may be more likely to experience such extensive outbreaks, but they can also be a sign of other underlying health problems. If your herpes outbreaks are becoming more serious over time, you should discuss it with your doctor.


Arduino PG, Porter SR. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 infection: overview on relevant clinico-pathological features. J Oral Pathol Med. 2008 Feb;37(2):107-21.

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