Jessica is a medical writer with an unquenched thirst to discover something new. She believes that medical content should be accessible to everyone and strives to write content that every single person can understand. When Jessica isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading a book with a dog cuddled in her lap. Jessica has a Masters of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering.
Medically reviewed by
Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It can be passed through various forms of sexual activity including oral activity although this is quite rare. Overall more than 3.7 billion people have some form of herpes. This guide explores the common myths associated with herpes.
Table of Contents
- Myth 1: Herpes Can Only Affect Your Genitals
- Myth 2: Condoms Completely Prevent Herpes
- Myth 3: You Can Get Herpes From a Toilet Seat
- Myth 4: Herpes Is Easy to Diagnose
- Myth 5: You Can Get Herpes Only From Someone Who Has Symptoms
- Myth 6: Herpes Can Be Cured Without Medication
- Myth 7: Cold Sores and Herpes Are Completed Different Things
- Myth 8: Herpes Is Contagious Only During an Outbreak
- Myth 9: Herpes Will Go Away on Its Own
- Myth 10: Getting Herpes Means Your Sex Life Is Over
- How Can DrHouse Help You?
Myths and Facts About Herpes
Myth 1: Herpes Can Only Affect Your Genitals
People often assume that herpes will only cause issues with the genitals. This is not the case. Herpes can also cause sores and blisters around the anus as well as the perianal area. In some cases, the sores may develop around the mouth.
While the symptoms may develop in different areas of the body, they are all caused by the same virus. The area where herpes causes an impact will depend on whether it was contracted through oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
Myth 2: Condoms Completely Prevent Herpes
The good news is that using a condom will significantly reduce the chances of contracting herpes during sexual intercourse. However, condoms are not 100% effective. Overall, condoms will reduce your chances of developing this infection by between 30-50%.
This means that they are far less effective at preventing the spread of herpes compared with preventing the spread of other STIs such as HIV.
Myth 3: You Can Get Herpes From a Toilet Seat
While you can contract herpes from various forms of sexual activity and skin-to-skin contact, you can not contract it from sitting on a toilet seat. This myth comes from a misunderstanding about how herpes is spread.
To contract herpes you must have direct contact with someone who is infected with the virus. As such, there is no chance of getting it by sitting on a toilet that someone else has used or even sharing a drink. That said an unclean toilet seat may lead to the development of other issues including yeast infections and bacterial infections.
Myth 4: Herpes Is Easy to Diagnose
Herpes is not easy to diagnose for several reasons. The first is that the majority of people who have herpes do not display symptoms. Indeed one report suggests that those who do have symptoms will find that they come and go.
Herpes can only be diagnosed during an active outbreak. There can be years between these outbreaks. Similarly, when herpes is active, it can be confused with other conditions such as:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Ingrown hairs
- Skin irritation
Myth 5: You Can Get Herpes Only From Someone Who Has Symptoms
It’s more common for people to contract the herpes virus from skin-to-skin contact with someone who is showing symptoms. The main symptom is red or tiny white blisters and bumps. These can be large or small and as mentioned, can be in a variety of locations.
An individual with herpes may also experience issues with itching and pain during an outbreak. While skin-to-skin contact when symptoms are present is more likely to spread the virus, it is possible to contract it when there are no visible sores and no issues with other symptoms.
Myth 6: Herpes Can Be Cured Without Medication
There are also steps that you can take to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to other people. Similarly, research is constantly exploring cures for herpes and there have been promising results in the past. However, there is still no cure available on the market.
Myth 7: Cold Sores and Herpes Are Completed Different Things
Many people mistakenly believe that herpes and cold sores are two different viruses. In reality, cold sores are caused by a particular strain of the herpes virus. Usually, the HSV-1 strain will lead to individuals experiencing issues with cold sores.
In contrast, HSV-2 is the strain that is typically associated with genital or anal herpes. While this is typically the case, it’s important to note that both types can spread to different areas through skin-to-skin contact that occurs during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual activity.
Myth 8: Herpes Is Contagious Only During an Outbreak
If you have herpes, then you are more likely to spread the virus when you are experiencing an outbreak. This is when the disease is most contagious. However, it is not true to say that herpes will only spread during this time.
Herpes can spread through sexual activity when there are no signs of an outbreak at all. That’s why it’s recommended that people with herpes use condoms where possible to prevent the virus from spreading from partner to partner.
Myth 9: Herpes Will Go Away on Its Own
People who contract herpes for the first time will notice that their symptoms – if they have any – will start to subside after a couple of weeks. They mistakenly believe that this is a sign that the virus is going away and that they are cured.
As mentioned previously, this is not the case. Instead, the herpes virus enters periods where it is dormant. During this time, you won’t show any signs of the virus at all but you can still pass it on through skin-to-skin contact and sexual activity. Remember, herpes can be managed but it can not be fully cured at this time.
Myth 10: Getting Herpes Means Your Sex Life Is Over
Since there is no cure for herpes, you might assume this means that your sex life is over. This isn’t the case. Since herpes is incredibly common, most people do not see it as a major issue.
However, you should still discuss it with your sexual partner and ensure that they understand and accept that there is a risk they could contract herpes, even if you are not experiencing an outbreak. You can also get medication that will prolong periods where you are asymptomatic and reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
At DrHouse you can connect with an online doctor in no more than 15 minutes. With a quick online appointment, an issue like herpes can be diagnosed and the right treatment can be offered. This will help ensure that you can manage the symptoms of the virus without any delays.
There are certainly a lot of myths surrounding the herpes virus from whether it can be cured to how it can be contracted. By understanding the truth behind this virus, you will know how to avoid contracting it and the best ways to treat it. If you need more support, make sure that you speak to one of our online professionals today.
- Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Avialable from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db304.htm.
- Paz-Bailey G, Ramaswamy M, Hawkes SJ, et alHerpes simplex virus type 2: epidemiology and management options in developing countriesSexually Transmitted Infections 2007;83:16-22. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/sti.2006.020966.
- Kaufman HE. Clinical Cure of Herpes Simplex Keratitis by 5-Iodo-2’-Deoxyuridine. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. 1962;109(2):251-252. Available from: 10.3181/00379727-109-27169.
- Beauman JG. Genital herpes: a review. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Oct 15;72(8):1527-34. PMID: 16273819.
- Mei-Gong Zhong, Yang-Fei Xiang, Xian-Xiu Qiu, Zhong Liu, Kaio Kitazato and Yi-Fei Wang, Natural products as a source of anti-herpes simplex virus agents. RSC Adv., 2013,3, 313-328, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/C2RA21464D.
- LeGoff, J., Péré, H. & Bélec, L. Diagnosis of genital herpes simplex virus infection in the clinical laboratory. Virol J 11, 83 (2014). Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-422X-11-83.
- Wald A, Langenberg AGM, Link K, et al. Effect of Condoms on Reducing the Transmission of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 From Men to Women. JAMA. 2001;285(24):3100–3106. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.1001/jama.285.24.3100.
- Globally, an estimated two-thirds of the population under 50 are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. World Health Organization (WHO). Available from: https://www.who.int/news/item/28-10-2015-globally-an-estimated-two-thirds-of-the-population-under-50-are-infected-with-herpes-simplex-virus-type-1.
Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.
Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.
If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.
DrHouse provides 24/7 virtual urgent care, men’s health, women’s health and online prescriptions.
On-demand virtual visits
24/7 care support
Prescriptions as needed