Dating With Herpes: Everything You Need to Know

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Dating With Herpes: Everything You Need to Know

Now, if you’re thinking, Oh no, my sex life really is over! please note that you don’t even need to have sex with someone to get or transmit herpes—which is exactly why the stigma is so silly. You wouldn’t judge someone for accidentally getting a cold, right?

“Sometimes herpes can be passed in nonsexual ways, like if a parent with a cold sore gives you a peck on the lips,” Molina-Schneider says. “You can spread herpes to other parts of your body if you touch a herpes sore and then touch your mouth, genitals, or eyes without washing your hands first. You can also pass herpes to someone else this way.” So please, keep washing your hands.

How can I decrease the risk of transmitting herpes to my partner?

“So this is the thing about herpes: There’s no such thing as safe sex; there’s only safer sex,” says Wise. “Sex with anyone, regardless of who it is, is always going to be a risk. So you have to understand and know that you can get herpes or an STI from literally everyone.”

That said, there are several precautions that can and should be taken to lower the risk of transmission through sex in particular. “Being proactive can be very helpful in reducing the risk of transmitting HSV to sexual partners,” Dr. Stahl explains. “While no one strategy is perfect, adhering to multiple risk reduction strategies can meaningfully reduce transmission risk.”

Avoid sex during outbreaks.

“First, it is important to avoid genital-to-genital, mouth-to-mouth, and genital-to-mouth contact during active outbreaks,” says Dr. Stahl. Even with condoms.

Always use protection.

“Always use condoms or dental dams during oral, anal, or vaginal sex,” says Sleeth. However, Dr. Stahl notes, the use of condoms reduces transmission risk by only about 30%.

Try suppression therapy.

According to Dr. Stahl, suppression therapy with antiviral medication like valacyclovir (Valtrex) can reduce the risk of transmission by about 50%. This can be taken daily or as needed during outbreaks.

Make healthy lifestyle choices.

Taking care of yourself overall can also help prevent outbreaks. “Whether or not you take medicine to treat herpes, taking care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress might help keep future outbreaks from popping up,” says Molina-Schneider. “No one knows for sure what triggers genital herpes outbreaks. Other infections, surgery, sex, your period, skin irritations, and stress may cause outbreaks. Sunburns, injuries to your lips, or other infections can cause oral herpes flare-ups. Try to avoid getting sunburned if you have oral herpes.”

How to tell your partner you have herpes

The truth is, there is no perfect time or way to tell someone you have herpes. But it’s still the right thing to do before you’re sexually active.

Tell them before you have sex.

“If you’re just starting to date someone, you might not need to tell them the very first time you hang out, but you should let them know before you have sex,” suggests Molina-Schneider. “When the relationship starts heading down that path and you feel like you can trust the person, that’s probably a good time.”

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