Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Stacey Jacobs
CONTRIBUTOR

Tis the season. Parties, presents and good cheer – and to make the holidays extra special, a little smooching under the mistletoe. Special indeed, but this is exactly how you may get a cold sore (read: oral herpes). Herpes is highly contagious and can be contracted by kissing. It is also a virus, something you cannot get rid of.

Herpes can spread between mouths, genitals and eyes

As well as spreading mouth to mouth, herpes can spread from mouth to genitals, genitals to mouth and genitals to genitals. You can also get herpes in your eyes. Do not touch a herpes sore, even your own, and then rub your eyes. Hand washing is extremely important here. In rare cases, herpes can also spread from mother to child during birth.The only good news? You can see it! A herpes outbreak looks like a blister, often red and raised, on or around the nose and mouth. Therefore if you see someone with a herpes outbreak do not kiss them, do not share chap stick, lipstick, a drink, a straw, a cigarette, a joint, a bong or a popsicle with them. And heaven forbid: do not let them kiss, lick or suck any other special parts of your body.

As on the mouth, you can see herpes on the genitals. So take a good look before diving in. Anything out of the ordinary on the genitals should be checked out by a health care provider and testing should be conducted for all sexually transmitted infections (STIs). ‘Out of the ordinary’ could include lumps, bumps, redness, itching, unusual discharge and a bad or strong odour. If any of these are ordinary for you, I highly recommend you see a health care provider.

Do not engage in sexual activity if you have any of these symptoms, or suspect you have an STI. Masturbation is always a nice option in these circumstances.

Although herpes is highly contagious when there is an outbreak, it is much less likely to be contracted when there is not an outbreak. So do not worry about kissing someone who has no visible symptoms, kiss away. But be careful of people with thick beards and moustaches, herpes has
been known to hide in facial hair. Many people with herpes rarely have an outbreak, while others have outbreaks on a regular basis. There are many over the counter remedies that can be purchased at pharmacies for oral herpes, as well as prescription medications for both oral and genital herpes. Some methods treat outbreaks and shorten their duration and symptoms, others can be taken every day to suppress the virus and act as outbreak prevention.

So, enjoy the season, keep your eyes open, and always use a condom.

Have a subject you’d like Stacey to discuss? Email us at communityeditor@thecord.ca.