[Skip to Content]
Find care at Nemours Children's HealthDoctorsLocations

Can You Get Genital Herpes From a Cold Sore?

Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
  • Listen
      mp3

Can you get genital herpes from a cold sore?
Lucy*

Yes — it is possible to get genital herpes from oral sex.

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes viruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Oral herpes (cold sores) is usually caused by HSV-1.

Someone with HSV-1 can spread the virus through oral sex, even if they don't have sores at the time.

The only way to prevent genital herpes and other STDs is abstinence. This means not having sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). Using a condom during sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) can prevent most STDs. Flavored condoms can be used for oral sex on a penis. Girls should have their partners use a dental dam every time they receive oral sex to help protect against genital herpes. And if either partner has a sore, it's best to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) until the sore has cleared up.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date reviewed: December 2020