For newborn babies, infection with the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) can be quite dangerous. The risks of neonatal herpes are highest when the mother contracts oral herpes late in her pregnancy. Although it’s categorized as an STD, oral herpes caused by HSV1 can be passed on to babies during childbirth.

For adults, on the other hand, there are only rare cases when HSV1 causes dangerous complications. Usually, though, oral herpes doesn’t really lead to serious medical problems for healthy adults. Read on and learn more about HSV1 and oral herpes.


HSV1 is the first of two types of herpes simplex virus. It’s the cause of the majority of oral herpes cases, as well as that of a small percentage of genital herpes cases. The second type of herpes simplex virus is the one that usually causes genital herpes.

Although oral and genital herpes are the more prevalent forms of infection with HSV, there are also other types of herpes infections. When herpes infection causes sores or blisters to form in your eyes, it’s called herpes keratitis or herpetic keratitis. When the blisters form on your fingers, it’s called herpes whitlow or herpetic whitlow.

Both herpes keratitis and herpes whitlow can occur if the virus spreads from the sores in your oral or genital area. They can also happen if you rubbed your eyes after touching another person’s herpes sores.

Herpes Is Easily Transmitted

Unlike other STDs wherein you would need to have sexual contact with an infected person to contract the disease, you can easily get herpes even if you only had skin contact with herpes sores.

Because it is easily transmitted through skin contact, herpes is highly prevalent and considered extremely contagious. Oral herpes, in fact, affects more than 3 billion people worldwide, and that includes both children and adults.

dad giving son a kiss

Indeed, even children can contract oral herpes. It usually happens when an infected adult kisses a child. Experts estimate that the majority of people with oral herpes acquired the infection during early childhood.

One problem with herpes is that it usually doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. When this happens, it’s called asymptomatic shedding. It means that the virus is active and contagious, but you don’t know it because you’re not experiencing any symptoms. At such times, you could be passing the virus on to other people without knowing it.

Most people know that when they’re having a cold sore outbreak, they shouldn’t be kissing other people. But when it’s a case of asymptomatic shedding, you have no way of knowing that the virus is active.

HSV1 Symptoms

When HSV1 does cause symptoms, cold sores are the most common symptoms. Cold sores usually initially appear as tiny bumps growing in clusters. Then they will develop into blisters filled with fluid or pus. The blisters may appear reddish, yellowish, or whitish.

Although fever blisters or cold sores are small in size, they can actually cause a lot of pain. There are many instances when people who have very painful cold sores are unable to eat or drink because it’s too uncomfortable. Even if you experience pain, you should still drink plenty of fluids to avoid being dehydrated.

After several days, the blisters will pop, and a clear or yellowish fluid will ooze out of them. This stage of a cold sore outbreak is when the risks of transmission are the highest. This means that when your fever blisters are oozing with fluid, you should be very careful since you can easily spread the virus.

During the first outbreak, you may experience several symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, and muscle aches. After your first outbreak, the virus will stay dormant inside your body. Later on, the virus will become active again and cause another outbreak. For recurring outbreaks, the symptoms you experience may be less severe.

Possible Complications

When you have a cold sore, you should do your best to avoid spreading the virus to your eyes. If the virus spreads and causes a cold sore to grow in your cornea, the condition can be serious. Eye herpes can cause your cornea surface to tear, thus affecting your vision.

If a herpes blister forms in the middle layers of your cornea, it’s even more problematic because it can lead to severe damage and can result in blindness. Eye herpes is actually considered a prevalent cause of vision loss in the United States.

Herpes encephalitis is another serious complication caused by HSV1. This can happen when the herpes virus spreads to your brain and causes your brain to become inflamed. If you experience confusion and sensitivity to light, you should get yourself examined as these are common symptoms of herpes encephalitis.

headache and stress

Other symptoms of herpes encephalitis include confusion or stupor, fever, headaches, seizures, and neck stiffness. It can also cause changes in your behavior, personality, and mood. An episode of herpes encephalitis can last for several days; however, it may take up to months to recover from it.

For people with a weakened immune system, HSV1 may cause a widespread body infection. This is especially dangerous for those who are suffering from cancer or atopic dermatitis, as well as those who are HIV-positive.

Treatment Options

For a simple case of oral herpes, you may not necessarily need treatment since cold sores just heal and disappear on their own in a matter of days. However, you may need to take medication for pain if your cold sores are particularly painful.

Doctors usually prescribe antiviral medications like acyclovir. Oral antiviral medications can help shorten the duration of an outbreak, as well as lessen the frequency of recurring outbreaks.

Most people who suffer from recurring oral herpes outbreaks usually know when an outbreak is about to happen. They usually experience a burning sensation or itching in the area where the fever blisters are about to appear. The best time to take oral antiviral medications is when an outbreak is just about to start.

Aside from oral antiviral medications, you may also use topical antiviral creams. These are creams that you apply on your cold sores to shorten the healing time and relieve some of the pain.

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