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"Are cold sores the same thing as herpes?"

ZocdocAnswersAre cold sores the same thing as herpes?


I was talking to this guy and kind of starting to like him and then he got a cold sore. Is this the same thing as herpes? He said that he has had them since he was a kid but I don't want to kiss him if I will get herpes. Are they two different things?


You ask a very good question about cold sores and the herpes virus. You probably already know this, but "Herpes" is a viral disease that can be caused by either Herpes Simplex type 1 (HSV1) or Herpes Simplex Type 2 (HSV2). There are numerous different types of infections that the herpes virus can cause, and they are typically grouped by the locations of the infection. For instance, the classic "cold sore" is usually due to a Herpes labialis (or Herpes "lip") infection (Most commonly with HSV1). Whereas genital herpes obviously involves the genitals (and is usually due to HSV2). The herpes virus can cause numerous other problems however, such as meningitis, chicken pox (is in the Herpes family), Bell's palsy, and encephalitis. The virus is somewhat unique in that the human immune system never really completely gets rid of the virus. The virus lies dormant in the cell body of sensory nerves, and can re-activate later in life (for unknown reasons...some think stress is a trigger) and cause an infection in the location of the nerve that it is infecting. This is was happens in "Shingles". Getting back to cold sore's...the short answer is "yes" they may be due to a herpes family virus. This doesn't mean however that it is associated in any way to genital herpes. Depending on the actual strain of the virus, there are different lengths of viral "shedding", but in general if there is an active infection, you can assume that there is viral shedding (aka "contagious"). If you want more information about your chances of developing cold sores, etc from someone who has them, I would recommend making an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss it with them. Best of luck.

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