Back to Question & Answers

If my partner has herpes around their mouth can I get herpes "down there" during oral sex?

Unfortunately the short answer is yes.  Herpes simplex virus (HSV) moves easily from skin to skin.

  • HSV-1, the most common type, causes facial and genital herpes. Facial herpes (cold sores) are very common.
  • HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes.

If your partner(s) has a herpes episode, facial or genital, they should consider it infectious from when they start feeling the outbreak coming on until their last sore has healed.  This is the time when it can infect someone else’s face or genitals.  If you think you may have a herpes infection and you have a sore present you should get tested.

To help prevent herpes transmission your partner can:

  • avoid sexual activity, kissing or sharing things like straws or smokes when a sore is present or coming on
  • avoid oral sex when they have facial or genital sores
  • avoid sharing towels and face cloths
  • use condoms and lube even when sores are not present (in between outbreaks)
  • use a condom or sex dam for oral sex on a penis, vagina or anus (in between outbreaks)

Herpes is a common STI, and having a partner with herpes does not mean that your sex life is over.  You may just have to be a little more deliberate and patient, but you can certainly still be sexually active.

Your doctor or nurse can give you more information about prevention and how you and your partner can best manage outbreaks.  Herpes can feel complicated, but accurate information can go a long way to help you manage it. can provide more detailed information.