Did you know that you can acquire an STD even when you’re just a toddler? That’s especially true for Herpes Simplex Virus-1 or HSV1, which can be transmitted even without sexual contact.
Because of the ease with which HSV1 is transmitted, it’s highly common among Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 17% of Americans aged 14 to 49 years have herpes. Read on to learn more about HSV1 and how you can avoid getting infected.
What is HSV1?
Among the many types of herpes simplex virus, HSV1 is the one that causes oral herpes. Genital herpes, on the one hand, is often associated with HSV2. However, oral to genital contact with someone who has HSV1 can also lead to genital herpes.
Fever blisters, also referred to as cold sores, are the most common symptoms of HSV1. Cold sores grow inside the mouth and on the skin around the mouth. These fever blisters are usually painful and easily become ulcerated. Contact with an infected cold sore can easily transmit the HSV1 virus.
Touching an infected cold sore with your hand can easily spread the infection to your fingertips and your eyes (herpes simplex keratitis). When you kiss someone who has a cold sore, you may get infected as well. When an infected partner gives you oral sex, you may end up being infected with genital herpes.
What are Other Symptoms of HSV1?
In many cases, people don’t realize that they have been infected with oral herpes because of the absence of symptoms. For those who develop symptoms, cold sores or fever blisters usually form.
Fever blisters caused by HSV1 infection typically cause an itching sensation inside your mouth. You may also experience a burning sensation around your lips, cheeks, and nose.
The cold sores will start forming a day or two after you started experiencing the burning sensation. Fever blisters caused by HSV1 look like fluid-filled blisters. They usually break out around the lips, nose, or cheeks. When cold sores burst, fluid will ooze out of them, and then they will crust over and disappear.
The first break out of cold sores may also be accompanied by a fever. Other symptoms may include muscle aches, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes. Your throat may become sore and your gums may feel eroded and painful.
The problem with an HSV1 infection is that it’s lifelong. This means that you may periodically experience cold sores after your initial infection. If you do acquire genital herpes caused by HSV1, you may also develop sores in your genital or anal area. The recurrence of HSV1 genital herpes is typically not as frequent as the recurrence of oral herpes.
How to Prevent an HSV1 Infection
Currently, vaccines for HSV1 are not yet available. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t avoid getting a herpes infection. However, the fact that HSV1 is sometimes asymptomatic poses a problem. If your partner doesn’t know she’s infected because she never showed symptoms, it can make you think there’s nothing to worry about.
In truth, however, HSV1 can be transmitted in so many ways, and not just through unprotected sex. In fact, even if you just share any object that may have been in contact with infected saliva, including eating utensils and drinking straws, you can easily acquire oral herpes. Thus, it’s best not to share eating utensils and such items.
If your partner has HSV1, you should avoid kissing and oral sex. Any kind of oral contact will easily transmit the virus and cause you to become infected as well. If your partner is showing signs of genital herpes, it’s best to avoid sex for the time being.
Note that even if you use a condom, it doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely protected from genital herpes. When someone has genital herpes, the fever blisters can form anywhere near the genitals. This means that you could still get infected if other parts of your body get in contact with the infected sores.
How is it Treated?
Even if you don’t treat cold sores, they generally clear up on their own but the period may vary from 2-4 weeks. You may ask your doctor for prescription antiviral drugs if you are experiencing severe symptoms or if you want to hasten the healing process.
Examples of medications usually prescribed for the treatment of cold sores include valacyclovir, acyclovir, famciclovir, and penciclovir. Unfortunately, these medications can also help with the symptoms but not totally cure the infection. Because the infection is lifelong, the virus can stay dormant inside your body.
If you have a fever, your doctor may also give you medications for it. If the cold sores are causing a lot of pain, your doctor may also give you a prescription for topical anesthetics to help relieve the pain.
There are rare cases when hospitalization is required. If you have a weakened or compromised immune system, your doctor may require to receive hospital care. If the infection is severe or if the infection has spread to other organs, you may also need hospitalization.
There are also instances when an infected person becomes dehydrated because he’s not eating or drinking enough water due to the painful cold sores. In such cases, doctors usually recommend hospitalization in order to treat the dehydration and prevent it from worsening.
What Can Trigger Another Outbreak of Cold Sores?
Once you have had an initial episode of HSV1 infection, you should watch out for certain factors that may trigger the recurrence of cold sores. A fever or another viral infection can cause your cold sores to flare up again.
For women, even hormonal changes related to menstruation can also cause another outbreak. If your partner has HSV1, you should watch out for the signs so that you’ll know when to abstain from having sex with her.
Fatigue, stress, and changes in the immune system can also trigger another recurrence of cold sores. If you have HSV1, try to find ways to better manage your stress in order to prevent your cold sores from reappearing.