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How can you tell if you have herpes?

The only way to know for sure is to have a provider take a swab of an active sore. If you begin to experience any symptoms (sores or blisters on either the genitals or the mouth) then you should make an appointment to have a provider take a swab. Herpes can look like lots of other things, such as pimples or ingrown hairs.

Remember that there are two different types of Herpes, Herpes Simplex Virus I and II.  Type I presents itself as cold sores on the the mouth, so it is not considered an STI unless it’s transmitted through unprotected oral sex (mouth to genital contact).

Type II is called genital herpes because its symptoms include open sores on the genitals. It is transmitted through unprotected skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.

If I have cold sores, can I transmit them to my genitals?​

A herpes outbreak will only occur in the specific area it was transmitted to. If you have oral herpes, it will not randomly appear on your genitals, and vice versa. However, be careful not to touch your genitals directly after you have touched a cold sore on your mouth; it is possible to accidentally transmit the virus in this way (although it is rare). And remember—you are still at risk for genital herpes from a partner’s mouth or genitals. Continue to use condoms or dental dams and discuss STI prevention openly with your partner.

Can you give someone genital herpes through oral sex if you have a cold sore on your mouth?

Yes, even though they are different strains of the same virus, you can still transmit oral herpes to the genitals. It is also possible to transmit genital herpes to the mouth if someone who was receiving oral sex already had genital herpes. Because it's so easy to transmit, we strongly encourage using condoms and dental dams during sexual activity!

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