The Low Down on Oral Sex and HSV-2
It can be scary to jump back on the horse after getting diagnosed with HSV-2. But, believe it or not, a herpes diagnosis does not mean that you need to buy a burial plot and a headstone that reads, "Here lies my sex life." It does mean, however, that you need to approach future sexual activities with a bit more care and intention. By learning the "ins and outs" of spreading HSV-2 through oral sex, you prevent transmission and create a safe and fun experience for everyone involved.
Types of Herpes
Herpes, or the herpes simplex virus, has two known forms:
- Herpes simplex virus type 1: You might recognize this form of herpes as HSV-1, but it's even more recognizable as fever blisters or cold sores. HSV-1 is most often the cause of oral herpes and, in many cases, it is contracted unknowingly during childhood from something as innocent as sharing a drink.
- Herpes simplex virus type 2: While HSV-1 usually results in upstairs infections, HSV-2 likes to head down south, resulting in genital herpes.
Though each type is found more frequently in a certain part of the body, both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can occur in either region. In many cases, but not all, a human's body produces antibodies to respond to and fight the virus, making it less likely that they could get the other form in the future.
Can Herpes Be Transmitted Through Saliva?
While saliva can contain and transmit HSV-1, HSV-2 usually requires skin-on-skin contact for transmission, meaning it's impossible to transmit the virus from a hot tub, a shared toilet seat or even semen. In order for one human to pass the virus to another, the affected skin area needs to come in contact with either breaks in the skin or mucous membranes, which are the moist linings of specific body parts. Examples of mucous membranes include the mouth, anus and vagina.
Can You Get HSV-2 From Giving Oral?
In most cases, HSV-2 is passed along through anal or vaginal intercourse. Even though it's way less common, you can get HSV-2 from performing oral on your partner if they have genital herpes, even if they aren't currently having an outbreak. This is because the mouth is lined with mucous membranes, giving the virus an entrance to your nervous system and the ability to cause oral herpes.
If I Have HSV-2, Can I Receive Oral?
Just because you have HSV-2 does not mean that your sex life has to come to a grinding halt. Remember, herpes is most contagious when you're experiencing an outbreak, so it's a good idea to avoid contact with the area completely during these times. If you are in a relationship where one individual has HSV-2 and the other does not, taking Suppressive Antiviral Medication can greatly reduce the likelihood of outbreaks and transmission. Learn more about the difference between Suppressive vs. Episodic Herpes Treatment.
Another way to reduce the risk that your partner will contract the virus is by using a dental dam as a barrier during oral sex. A dental dam is a thin piece of latex or polyurethane that you stretch over your genitalia during oral sex. The materials used for a dental dam are the same ones used for condoms, so they are thin enough not to detract from the sexual experience. In fact, you can even DIY a dental dam using a condom.
Can You Get HSV-1 From Giving Oral?
Most of the time, the HSV-1 virus is transmitted through things like kissing, sharing utensils or sharing a cup, but you can also be transmitted to or from a partner during oral sex. In fact, HSV-1 most commonly causes mouth sores, but it can cause genital sores as well.
If I Have HSV-1 Can I Receive Oral?
It is unlikely, but completely possible, to transmit HSV-1 when receiving oral sex. You can reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus to your partner by avoiding sexual contact during an outbreak, but there is still a slight risk. If you experience "infrequent" outbreaks, defined as less than 6 per year, an Episodic Antiviral Treatment may be all that is necessary to avoid passing the virus.
What Can My Partner and I Do To Prevent Transmission?
A herpes diagnosis is not the end of the world, or even your sex life, for that matter. You and your partner can still enjoy sex, but you may have to be a little more aware and careful. Some ways that you can prevent transmitting HSV-1 and HSV-2 during oral sex are:
- Keep it real: There is no shame in being open and honest with your sexual partner. Let them know that you have HSV-2, explain what that means and ask them if they have herpes. Open communication is so important to keep everyone informed and safe.
- Kick the virus to the curb: By getting suppressive herpes treatment to reduce the frequency of your outbreaks, you can actually help to prevent spreading the virus to your sexual partner. At wisp, we provide medication to prevent and treat outbreaks, decrease your healing period and give you more time to get down to business.
- Cover all your bases: Safe sex is always important, regardless if you or your partner have a herpes diagnosis. Using condoms and dental dams is probably a no-brainer, and it's a great way to enjoy things like oral sex worry-free.
- Participate in contactless sexual sports: When you or your partner are experiencing an outbreak, go for some safe, or "sexy touching" instead. In fact, spicing things up could enrich your sex life even after the outbreak passes. You can masturbate together or try mutual masturbation. Just so long as you keep things fun and safe, there are no wrong answers.
Regardless of what form of herpes you or your partner have, think about it as a beginning rather than an end. With proper treatment, you can enjoy "normal" sooner. Our cold sore and genital herpes meds are prescribed online, packaged discreetly and delivered free of charge, straight to your door. Or, you can pick up your medication at your local pharmacy the very same day you order it.