Intimacy during an Outbreak

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Can you have sex if you have a herpes outbreak? Well yes and no. Let me explain.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about how herpes is transmitted. Herpes is transmitted via skin to skin. So what that means is that if you only have oral herpes and you have an oral outbreak, you are contagious only on your mouth. And vice a versa, if you have genital herpes and not oral herpes, then you are only contagious genitally. 

So is it possible to have sex with a herpes outbreak, well let’s define sex and also where you have your outbreak. Sex can be oral, vaginal or anal. In other words sex is just not the good old missionary type of thing. Should you be having sex where you have an outbreak, no. You will be putting your partner at risk. But can you still engage in other sexual activities, yes and it can be fun. 

There are times that I have had an outbreak and my husband and I have wanted to have sex. Weather it’s been when we are on vacation, or just because. With that being said, we’ve gotten creative and still had a great time getting between the sheets. 

As long as you are not exposing your parter to that area, then you should be fine. There are some grey areas that you’ll want to be aware of, so let me spell it out.

Herpes does not live in our saliva or bodily fluids. However, they can be a vehicle in which they are transmitted. Some scenarios to be aware of are, lets say you have a cold sore aka herpes outbreak on your lip. You’re going to do everything to avoid skin to skin with your partner but something you might not think of is your salvia. Maybe you accidentally use it as a lubricant and that saliva touches your herpes outbreak and then picks up some of the active virus. That could potentially transmit herpes. So other things like toys or bodily fluids can be a way that herpes gets transmitted. 

Personally I’d talk to your partner and get on the same page with him or her. What do you both, and I mean both of you feel comfortable with. It’s not just one of you. Do you want to totally avoid sex or are you and your partner OK with avoiding the area. Again, I want to preface that there is a risk. 

I’ll use my husband and I as an example. Bill does not have herpes and does not want herpes. However, he’s okay if he gets it. Now, when I have outbreaks he stays away. But we do still get creative and still play around in that area. He is at a higher risk of catching herpes. Again, this is something that all parties involved need to be aware of and content to. 

If disclosing is something you are afraid of, or don't know how to start, I do have a toolkit that will help you with that. It will help you open up a conversation with your past, current and future partners, with lots of tips.

Tell Your Partner Toolkit


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