Dermatologist Questions Dermatologist

Herpes from healed cold sore?

My girlfriend and I are afraid to be intimate because it’s not clear to us whether we could contract genital herpes. She developed a cold sore on her mouth a while back. Her cold sore healed months ago so I think it’s safe but I wanted to be sure. Thank you!

Male | 18 years old

2 Answers

Herpes is a resilient and tough little virus; once it’s in your body, it’s smart enough to hide out in your nerve roots and only ‘comes out to play’ when you are stressed or have UV sun exposure. This is usually going to have a ‘prodrome’ or warning up to 12-36hours ahead of the outbreak with a skin sensitivity or tingling of the skin where the outbreak will occur; usually to the peri-oral area/mouth or to the vulvar/perineal area or penile shaft. These lesions are contagious from the time you feel the warning or the tingling of the tissues through the open outbreak; once the lesions heal over, they are no longer contagious but I usually tell people to wait an additional 24-48hrs to be certain. There are over the counter topical creams that help but usually taking the anti-viral medical Zovirax or Valtrex can help shorten the course by 1-2days of the infection and help with the discomfort. If you are prone to having more than 3 outbreaks in a 12month timeframe or more than 2 in a 6month timeframe, you should qualify for daily suppression therapy with a lower dose of antiviral medication daily as suppression. Hope this helps.
If the herpetic labialis is healed past few months ago then chances are remote of recurrance.