Confused About HSV-1 & HSV-2?


If you’re confused about the two different types of herpes, you’re not alone.

Type 1 herpes (HSV-1) often causes cold sores or blisters around the mouth…most often around the border of the lips. When HSV-1 shows up on the mouth area, it’s referred to as oral herpes. In fact, many people get infected with HSV-1 during childhood through light mouth-to-mouth contact, such as an infected relative kissing you when you were young.

In other words, HSV-1 isn’t necessarily a sexually transmitted disease, but rather a disease that can be easily transmitted through skin-to-skin sor mouth-to-mouth contact…especially when sores or blisters are present. However, HSV-1 can cause genital herpes which is most commonly spread when someone who has HSV-1 on the mouth performs oral sex on his or her partner.

After an initial outbreak, HSV-1 genital herpes outbreaks tend to recur less frequently over time, compared to type 2 (HSV-2) genital herpes…but you might continue to have symptoms or flares intermittently. If you see any sores on your genitals, I urge you to see your regular doctor in order to confirm your herpes diagnosis and treatment plan (if any). Condoms can reduce your risk of spreading the virus to others, but it’s important to remember that herpes is also spread through skin-to-skin contact…a condom or dental dam only covers part of the genital area, so there’s still a risk of transmitting the virus.

According to the CDC, about one out of every six people have genital herpes, but most of them don’t know they’re infected because they either have mild symptoms or no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get tested, so you know your status. If you test positive, you can take steps to avoid infecting others…and you’ll be able to avoid potentially serious complications from herpes down the road by getting proper treatment with antiviral medications, if needed.

Bottom line? While HSV-1 most commonly causes oral herpes and HSV-2 most commonly causes genital herpes, you can have either virus in either place (your genitals or your mouth area). I recommend type-specific testing if you’re worried that you may have been exposed to genital herpes.

Also, keep in mind that if you or your partner is pregnant, genital herpes can be harmful to the baby…especially in the last trimester. For that reason, be cautious about any activity that could lead to transmitting either HSV-1 or HSV-2 herpes during late pregnancy.

If you already have herpes and you’re pregnant, check with your regular doctor to be sure you’re doing everything possible to keep your baby safe. With open communication and a little planning, you and your baby should be fine.


Test often to make certain you are aware of your sexual health.



All month long GET 20% OFF on a full STD test panel.
(Exclusions apply)

Call (888) 768-7064 and speak to one of our Care Advisors

Article by Medical Director Lisa Oldson, MD

It seems like this author has no description. Add your discription/bio at user profile or disable this widget in theme customizer if you dont want to use it.


  1. In reading information from the CDC regarding HSV 1. I understood that it is very unlikely to give yourself or transfer HSV 1 of the mouth or upper body to the genitals because your body already has the virus and builds or creates antibodies or immunity to it. However, I am still not completely sure if this is true. I have a 13 yr old niece that has HSV 1 on her genitals and her Dr. said that she most likely gave it to herself from a cold sore and that it is common. I would really like to know the answer with specific scientific source/data to back it up. Any help you can provide would be great. I am concerned she may be being taken advantage of.

  2. I read this paragraph completely concerning the comparison of most recent and earlier technologies, it’s amazing article.

  3. It’s amazing to visit this website and reading the views of all friends concerning this post, while I am also keen of getting familiarity.

  4. Soon I’ll be 49 years old. Never once have I had a cold sore or either one of these viruses.
    I thought I had a staff infection, so I went in to instacare. Dr swab the infected area inside my nose & downward towards my upper lip. I never seen or experienced this before. Ran tests & wanted to culture it. Tests results came back positive for Herpes Virus (cold sore type, in my nose & on my face). I’d like some answers seems how the nurse or Dr didn’t really know how I contracted it. They put me on a viral medication called Valtrex. I cancelled my appts isolating myself so I don’t infect anyone else. I am extremely interested in knowing how I got this. I am celibate. Can anyone tell me how I possibly contracted this at this age in life???

  5. Thank you for reaching out. For the best possible answer to your question, please contact your local or primary care doctor. Generally speaking, not specifically to your personal case, Herpes Simplex Virus can be contracted in a variety of ways. Again, we recommend reaching out to a medical professional familiar with your case and history for the best answer to your question.

Comments are closed.