How Do You Get Herpes?

How do you get herpes and how do I know if I’m at risk for getting herpes are two of the most common questions that I get asked.  And with 50 million Americans infected with genital herpes, just about anyone who is having any kind of sex is at risk.

The sort answer that I usually give is that you can only get the herpes virus through direct physical contact with someone who already has genital herpes.  Pretty simple right?  Well keep reading…

Herpes can be spread through a variety of different ways such as kissing, oral sex, vaginal or anal sex but also it can be spread through skin to skin contact.

And by that I mean is if you’re naked and your partner is naked and your bodies are pressed up against each other, you can get herpes that way.  In simpler terms, you don’t have to have penetration or ejaculation to transmit the herpes virus.


A lot of people will ask me how you can get herpes from a toilet seat and my answer is always the same.  Many studies have shown time and time again that it’s nearly impossible to become infected from toilet seats, bathroom towels or other inanimate objects and the only sure way to prevent getting it or spreading it is to avoid skin to skin contact and sexual contact while herpes sores are present. 

The reason for this is because the risk of spreading HSV-2 is greatest when sores (or herpes blisters) are present and active on the surface of the skin.  Additionally, a person who is infected with the virus can spread it even when no signs or symptoms are present through viral shedding.

How Can You Get Herpes In Your Mouth?

How Can You Get Herpes in the mouth is another question that a lot of people want to know.  Although the general answer is the same as above, like avoiding skin to skin contact during outbreaks of cold sores or fever blisters, the most common way that you can get herpes in your mouth is by kissing and a simple peck on the lips is enough to spread the virus.


Although there is a small risk of catching oral herpes from kissing when a sore is not present, it’s not likely.  I mean, we can’t insist that everybody that we kiss take a blood test first…can we?

Another interesting fact about oral herpes is that most people become infected by the time they turn 20.  This is probably due to the fact that most people catch it from close family members and relatives and from other children.  And since nearly 80% of the population has HSV-1 you were most likely exposed very early in life.

How Fast Can Herpes Appear?

Often in the same conversation about how do you get herpes the topic of how fast can herpes appears is also mentioned.  Well, typically it takes the virus anywhere from 3 to 21 days after a person is exposed before they can expect to see an outbreak.  The virus that causes herpes 1 or herpes 2 lives within the nerves of the face and genital areas respectively, and it does take time before the virus sets up shop in the areas.

Another factor that greatly affects herpes outbreaks is a person’s immune system.  A person with a healthy immune system and is not stressed out may not see an outbreak for several weeks after the exposure…for some people it may be even longer before they notice.

But as a general rule, most people will generally have an outbreak between day 2 and day 7.  Normally the first outbreak is the worse and can last from 2 to 4 weeks. 

Because both cold sores or fever blisters (HSV-1) and genital herpes (HSV-2) reacts differently to each person that it infects it’s nearly impossible to be able to break it down to an exact date.

I realize that this article was a very simple explanation on how you can get herpes but don’t let the simplicity fool you.  The more you know the easier it is to prevent catching the virus and more importantly prevent from spreading it to the people we love and care about.

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