Now that I have your attention, I will explain that I get cold sores — and yes for those of you who get cold sores, this is the herpes virus. I get less outbreaks as I get older, which is often the case for many people, but things such as stress can cause an outbreak. That being said I had a few outbreaks this year, and for those of you who get cold sores, you will understand when I say, yay for masks!
I have gotten cold sores since I was a child. I don’t know for sure that my mom was the person who gave them to me, although she does get cold sores, so did a few of my childhood friends. Herpes is highly contagious and can be passed easily by kissing, sharing straws or cutlery and sharing chapstick, lipstick, glassware, cigarettes, bongs or joints. You are most likely to pass on the virus when you have an outbreak, but it’s also possible to pass on the virus without an outbreak.
As well as spreading mouth to mouth, herpes can spread from mouth to genitals, mouth to anus, genitals to mouth, anus to mouth and genitals to genitals — and don’t forget you can also get herpes in your eyes. Do not touch a herpes sore, even your own, and then rub your eye. Handwashing is extremely important as we are all well aware.
You may also have the virus without knowing it, as some people never get an outbreak or only get one upon receiving the virus, never to see another. Since herpes is a virus, it does not go away — it’s still inside you, but it can be treated.
There are many over the counter remedies that can be purchased at pharmacies for oral herpes (cold sores), as well as prescription medications for both oral and genital herpes. Some remedies treat outbreaks and shorten their duration and symptoms, and some can be taken every day to suppress the virus and act as outbreak prevention.
As I mentioned above, stress can cause a herpes outbreak. So can illness, hormonal changes, too much sun and fatigue. Adequate sleep, stress management and sun protection can help but are often difficult prevention strategies depending on what is going on in your life.
As I age I have learned not to share — a lesson I wish I was taught younger. If someone asks me for a sip of my drink, I can’t help but say, ‘sure you can have a sip of my drink but I must warn you I have herpes.’ Then I continue on, teaching them all about the herpes virus, hoping they will understand sharing is not as good and wholesome as it sounds.
Sorry to dampen your February, the supposed month of love, but someone has to be honest about the more unflattering side of things. Oh and one last suggestion, be cautious of people with beards and moustaches, of which there are now plenty, herpes has been known to hide in facial hair.
Stacey Jacobs has been a Sex Educator for almost 2 decades. For 13 of those years she worked as a Sexual Health Educator at Planned Parenthood. She teaches in the Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and when not educating, she enjoys reading, walking her dogs and eating good food. The life of a Sex Educator is usually not as interesting as people assume.