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Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dec 11, 20227 min read

Herpes on Tongue - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


Herpes is a common viral condition that can affect different parts of the body, including the skin, mouth, and genitals. This disease is caused by different types of the herpes virus, and it affects millions of people around the world. But have you ever wondered whether herpes can also affect your tongue?

Read on to learn more about herpes, its causes, symptoms, and treatment at STDWatch.com.

What is herpes on tongue?

Herpes on your tongue is just another manifestation of oral herpes, which is a viral disease caused by herpes simplex virus. Once the virus attaches to a cell in your body, it invades it and starts making more copies of itself. Herpes infections are lifelong, but they can be managed through treatment and lifestyle strategies.

How do you get herpes on tongue?

There are two different herpes viruses that can cause herpes on the tongue: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each of these viruses is more commonly found in certain parts of the body:

  • HSV-1 is more commonly associated with oral herpes and it spreads through oral-to-oral contact. HSV-1 has been estimated to affect approximately 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 across the world, which represents nearly 70 percent of the world’s population. In some cases, HSV-1 can also cause genital infections. Most HSV-1 are acquired during childhood, and even babies can become infected with this virus.
  • HSV-2, on the other hand, is a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital or anal sores. However, this virus can also cause oral herpes or herpes on the tongue after genital-to-oral contact. It has been estimated that 491 million people aged 15 to 49, or 13% of the world’s population in that age group have HSV-2.

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What are the symptoms of herpes on tongue?

It’s important to keep in mind that tongue herpes can be completely asymptomatic, just like any other type of herpes. In fact, a study published by The Journal of Infectious Diseases found that asymptomatic viral shedding has been recorded in 80 to 90 percent of those who test positive for herpes.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the symptoms of oral herpes can include:

  • Redness, swelling, and a painful or tingling sensation that precedes the formation of blisters.
  • Fluid-filled, painful blisters that form clusters on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, on the roof of the mouth, on the lips, under the nose, or on the chin or neck.
  • These blisters will eventually rupture and leak fluid.
  • After rupturing, the blisters will become small ulcers that will scab over depending on their location.
  • Swollen, bleeding, cracked gums.
  • Swollen, painful lymph nodes on your neck.

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If this is a new herpes infection, you could also develop some flu-like symptoms 2 to 12 days after being exposed to the virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, these initial symptoms can include:

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Herpes on tongue treatment and prevention

There’s no way to treat and eliminate herpes from the body — herpes is considered to be a chronic viral infection. However, your doctor could prescribe oral or topical antiviral medications to prevent or minimize outbreaks. Sores and ulcers can also become infected, so you could also require oral or topical antibiotics during an outbreak.

Although herpes is an extremely common condition, there are certain steps that you can take to minimize your risk of getting it. According to Cedars Sinai, these tips can help you prevent a herpes infection:

  • Avoid direct contact with someone who has herpes sores.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses, cups, silverware, or other eating utensils with someone who has herpes.
  • If someone in your household has herpes, wash bedding linens and towels using hot water.
  • Avoid kissing people to greet them, and don’t let other adults kiss your babies or children.

You can still spread the herpes virus even if you’re completely asymptomatic, so it’s very important to get tested for herpes regularly, especially if you engage in unprotected oral sex or oral sex with multiple partners. The only way to make sure that you never get an oral STD is to completely avoid sexual contact, or to only have sex within a monogamous relationship where both partners have tested negative for STDs. However, you can reduce your STD risk by practising safe sex, including wearing a condom or dental dam during oral sex.

Thanks to at-home STD testing, you can now get tested for many different STDs — including herpes — from the comfort and privacy of your own home. After collecting your sample using the supplies provided in your kit, you will simply have to mail it back to the company and wait for the results. If you test positive for any STD, the testing company will also provide medical advice and assistance during the treatment process. You can learn more about at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com.

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