Add this to the list of questions I'd never thought I'd ask
November 22, 2006 5:53 PM   Subscribe

So the doc said I have HSV 1. I have never had, to my knowledge, a cold sore in my life. What does this mean for my dating life now?

Frankly, I've been avoiding this question for a while but with the holiday mistletoe approaching I need some answers

Can I no longer kiss friends on cheeks?
If I kiss a girl when there's no cold sores is she okay?
At what point do you do the "big inform" in a relationship?
Will it do anything else to me? Like make my head red?
Is there some sort of FAQ on this sort of thing?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
It means you are like 95% of the adult population in that you have antibodies to that virus. Unless you are having outbreaks in your genital area (which is now possible with hsv1, not just 2), you have nothing to worry about and can safely assume that the girls you are kissing are positive as well.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2006

Wait, just HSV-1 on the lips? Congratulations you just joined 90% of the adult human population. Yeah you can spread it, you can shed it pretty much any time. The absence of a sore does not mean the virus is gone. Do you mean HSV-2, genital herpes, that's a lot more of a deal to inform your partners about.

If it troubles you can casually mention a past cold sore and see if your partner says "Oh, I hate those." Chances are most of the people you see in a day have HSV-1, something like half of them will reactivate and show a cold sore at some point in their life.

Buy some abreva.
posted by Science! at 6:09 PM on November 22, 2006

If you do not have a cold sore or are not in the process of developing one (you will feel a slightly bothersome bump), there is no harm in kissing anyone or doing anything with your lips. Having HSV only means that you CAN get a cold sore; it is when you have one that you need to be ultra-careful because that's when you can pass it onto someone else. The majority of Americans have this virus; there's no need to do any "big inform."

By the way, if and when you DO get a cold sore, the best OTC cream I've ever used was Abreva. Get it immediately and slather it on a few times a day; it works wonders in shortening healing time.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 6:10 PM on November 22, 2006

Check this site.
posted by JayRwv at 6:10 PM on November 22, 2006

My wife gets 'em. I don't. She's conscientious about snogging when she's got one, and yes, she'd recommend Abreva. I don't think anybody would flip out about it. I like Science!'s idea.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:31 PM on November 22, 2006

Don't worry about the kissing on the cheek thing, honestly. I hope the responses so far have made you realize this really isn't as big of a deal as youthink it is.
posted by piratebowling at 8:07 PM on November 22, 2006

After receiving the gift that keeps on giving from a former girlfriend, I took her advice and now eat high-dose B-group vitamin pills at the first sign of cold sore onset. This makes the cold sore not get very big and go away completely in about two or three days. On those occasions where I've just let it go, it usually lasts five or six days. YMMV.

Mrs. Flabdablet and I don't snog if I've got one showing, and she still doesn't get them at all, for what that's worth.

HSV-1 is actually kind of handy. It's like those red lights on your car dashboard. If you've got a cold sore coming on, it's a signal to you that you need to be getting more sleep and eating better.
posted by flabdablet at 8:26 PM on November 22, 2006

flabdablet, it's probably unlikely you got it from an ex. This is what MY ex told me - and she's a herpes virologist.

It's not just the "vast majority" of Americans who have it, it's well over 90%, and most of them have it by the time they are 6 years old. It's suspected to pass from mother to child (not in utero, but through normal contact in early years).

Some people are completely non-symptomatic (never show a cold sore). Some are non-symptomatic for years, then start showing cold sores.
posted by Dunwitty at 8:49 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Something else she said - apparently well over 100 times more money is spent on bovine herpes research than is spent on human herpes research. This includes the whole gamut of HHV (human herpes virii), including the big diseases.

See, apparently bovine herpes costs somebody a lot of money...
posted by Dunwitty at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2006

Still, "oral" herpes CAN spread to the genitals, so I don't perform oral sex on anybody when I'm active, "tingly" like I'm getting one, or just getting over it. And you might read up on herpes, like at Wikipedia. I have noticed that it got less bothersome over time: as a teenager I had big sores all over my mouth, but as an old fart I only get two -- a small one on my upper lip I barely notice and a bigger one that wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't right in the corner of my mouth that's prone to chapping and cracking open anyway.
posted by davy at 9:33 PM on November 22, 2006

Dunwitty, I guess that makes me one of the under ten percent, because I'm quite sure I did. I'd never had a cold sore before meeting my first-ever girlfriend. She'd always had them, on and off. One came up on her; we snogged anyway; I got my first cold sore a week later. It was very big and very painful, and I'd never experienced anything even vaguely like it before.

anonymous: something else you should know if you're new to the cold sore club is that for most people, outbreaks tend to get less and less severe and less and less frequent over time.
posted by flabdablet at 10:48 PM on November 22, 2006

zovirax is extremely effective, it may be prescription only (if so -- it is in Canada -- ask your doctor for a bunch of repeats and have one on hand at all times -- nuking the sore when you first feel the tingle is essential. See also the list of "don't use products" here.
posted by Rumple at 11:25 PM on November 22, 2006

My husband has it. I don't. We've managed to keep it that way by just not smooching or sharing drinks (or any other sort of mouth activity) when he feels like he's getting one or has one. When we were younger, he'd get a sore every few months, but as we have gotten older it's gotten to be less often ... maybe once or twice a year, and usually when he's really stressed out/not eating right/not sleeping enough or sick with something else and his immune system is taxed. So as others have said, it's nothing to get freaked out about. In fact, I sometimes feel like the freak because everyone I know gets them and I don't. :)

The last time, he used Abreva when he first felt the tingling, and it never even made it a sore stage. Didn't even become a bump. He described Abreva as a "godsend" and "da bomb" and definitely recommends having a tube of it around at all times.
posted by Orb at 12:15 AM on November 23, 2006

If you do not have a cold sore or are not in the process of developing one (you will feel a slightly bothersome bump), there is no harm in kissing anyone or doing anything with your lips. Having HSV only means that you CAN get a cold sore; it is when you have one that you need to be ultra-careful because that's when you can pass it onto someone else.

Not exactly - most cases of herpes are transmitted WITHOUT symptoms, so technically one can transmit the infection at any time, not just when there's a cold sore. HSV-1 can be transmitted to the genitals, also.
posted by tristeza at 10:22 AM on November 23, 2006

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