We receive compensation from the providers of the services and products featured on this website. This impacts the offers’ positioning, rating & scoring. Advertising Disclosure


What is Herpes?

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

Sexual Health
  • Medically reviewed by Dr. Andrea Pinto on 13 November 2021

Herpes is a viral sexually transmitted disease that is most commonly caused by the herpes simplex I or II virus, though there are over 100 herpes viruses that are currently known but only 8 are found in humans. 

8 herpes viruses that are commonly found in humans include: 

  • Herpes simplex 1
  • Herpes simplex virus 2
  • Varicella-zoster virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus 
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Human herpesvirus-6
  • Human herpesvirus-7
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus

Herpes is passed through skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with the virus. This can include kissing someone who has an active sore, receiving oral sex from someone who has an active sore, and penetrative sex. 

Get Your LetsGetChecked Discount for Herpes Test Today!

Article image

Herpes simplex I (HSV-I) is a virus which causes common cold sores. HSV I is usually passed from mouth-to-mouth contact but it may can also be passed from person to person via oral sex. HSV I can cause cold sores (small fluid-filled blisters) to appear on the mouth, chin and nose. Sometimes cold sores may also appear on the cheeks. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex I in 80% of cases and herpes simplex II in 20% of causes. 

Herpes simplex II (HSV-II) is the strain of the virus which most commonly causes genital herpes. Gential herpes will present with symptoms only during “flare ups’’. Some of the common symptoms will include pain, itching, red bumps, white blisters, ulcers and scabs.  Oftentimes, genital herpes won’t present with any symptoms and for this reason, it is easy to contract or pass on the sexually transmitted infection without realising it. 

How easy is it to get herpes?

It is easy to get herpes due to the fact that it is very contagious. Herpes can be contagious even if you don’t have active sores. 

Herpes is passed easily through skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with the virus. You can get herpes when your mouth or genitals touch the mouth or genitals of someone who is infected with the virus. 

Herpes is most commonly passed during oral, anal or vaginal sex. It may also surprise you to learn that your eyes can be affected by herpes if the eyelid or even the cornea (outer surface of the eyeball) come into contact with infected skin. 

Herpes can be passed from mother to child, though this is usually quite rare. 

Buy LetsGetChecked At-Home Herpes Test Today!

Can herpes go away?

Herpes will not go away on its own. There is no cure for herpes, however, it can be managed effectively with antiviral medications. 

Blisters that may arise during a flare up may heal themselves without the need for medications, however this does not mean that the herpes virus is no longer contagious. You will still have the herpes virus in your system. 

The good news is that antiviral medications can shorten the duration of outbreaks, and it can also make the outbreaks less severe. You can also take other medications during an outbreak, such as anti-inflammatory medications to relieve your symptoms. In some cases, blisters can become infected and you may need topical antibiotics to manage this secondary infection.

What does a herpe sore look like?

Article image

Herpes, whether it appears on the mouth or genitals will usually look like a number of fluid-filled blisters. 

  • These blisters may appear in clusters, or you may have one single blister. 
  • The blisters can vary in size and may appear in different places. 
  • The sores can be red in colour or may look like they are filled with clear or white fluid. 
  • The sores generally scab over during the healing process which may take a week or more to heal. 

Is herpes always contagious?

Even if you are not experiencing an outbreak. Herpes always has the potential to be contagious. 

Let’s break it down into oral and genital herpes. 

Oral herpes is most contagious when you have active sores in and around the mouth, especially during the first few days of the outbreak. During oral outbreaks, you should avoid kissing and oral sex. 

Genitial herpes is highly contagious during outbreaks, even when using a condom, a sore that is uncovered during sex could be passed from person to person. During genital herpes outbreaks, you should avoid oral and penetrative sex. 

Buy LetsGetChecked At-Home Herpes Test Today!

How long is herpes contagious?

Herpes is always contagious, however the risk is lowered during dormant periods (when there are no visible sores or symptoms). 

When you are experiencing an outbreak, it is best to use antiviral treatment within the first five days of symptoms appearing. You should avoid touching the blisters to ensure that you do not spread the virus further on your own body.

Get tested with LetsGetChecked - Home STD Testing with Treatment Included


How do you get tested for herpes?

Herpes can either be detected through a swab or blood test. Read: How does a herpes test work? 

What are the symptoms of herpes? 

Oftentimes, those who have the herpes virus will not experience any symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may include: 

  • Pain, tingling, burning (before blisters appear).
  • Grey blistering sores with a red base (in the mouth or on the genitals).
  • Pain during urination (genital herpes).
  • Itching.
  • Flu-like (fever, tiredness, swollen lymph nodes headaches, tiredness, lack of appetite. 
  • Anal and perianal infections (MSM populations)

How do you get treated for herpes? 

There is no cure for herpes, but the virus can be effectively managed. 

Written by Hannah Kingston on May 3, 2021

Get Tested For Herpes With LetsGetChecked Today!


Hannah Kingston

Hannah Kingston

Mar 25, 2022

More about Herpes

How Does a Herpes Test Work?
How does a herpes test work? We talk you through everything you need to know about herpes testing for HSV1 and HSV2.
Updated at Oct 01, 2023

Hannah Kingston

Sexual Health
3 min read

Can You Get Herpes From Kissing?
Can you get herpes from kissing? You can get herpes from kissing. Here's everything you need to know about oral herpes, also known as a common coldsore.
Updated at Oct 01, 2023

Hannah Kingston

Sexual Health
3 min read

Can You Get Anal Herpes?
Herpes is a very common type of STD. You may have heard more about genital or oral herpes, but did you know about anal herpes? STDWatch.com brings you all the facts on anal herpes.
Updated at Oct 01, 2023

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Sexual Health
3 min read

You may also like

The Rise of Chlamydia in the US
The rates of chlamydia in the US have been steadily increasing. Some people are at greater risk than others. Here's what you need to know to stay safe.
Updated at Aug 30, 2023

Dr. Patricia Shelton

3 min read

The Rise of STDs in the US
The rates of STDs in the US have risen sharply over the past few years. Here’s the information you need to know to keep yourself safe despite the rising rates.
Updated at Aug 29, 2023

Dr. Patricia Shelton

Sexual Health
STD Treatment
3 min read

AimCheck.com Overview
Is AimCheck.com a good option for ordering your own medical lab tests? Can you really trust this company with your health and wellness?
Updated at Jul 12, 2023

Dr. Patricia Shelton

3 min read

Top 3 STD Testing Services


  • LetsGetCheck
  • Open options


  • MyLabBox
  • Open options


  • PrioritySTD
  • Open options
Most Popular
LetsGetChecked Logo


  • Confidential results in 2-5 days
  • Free & discreet shipping - both ways
  • Uses hospitals labs for max accuracy
  • Medical support available 24/7
  • Consultation for treatment options
  • FSA & HSA cards accepted
  • FDA listed tests

Save 25% with code "GET25"