Don’t Miss a Single Update or New Release! Sign up Today

How is Herpes Transmitted Non-Sexually?

How is Herpes Transmitted Non-Sexually?
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 7 min read

When you hear the word, herpes, most people think of the disease that is transmitted through sex. However, you don’t have to engage in sexual activity to contract this disease. So, how is it transmitted non-sexually?

According to experts, you can catch herpes by accidentally touching someone who has the virus. Herpes is often transmitted through kissing. If you have herpes simplex virus-1 or oral herpes, the virus can be passed to another person through saliva. A quick kiss is all it takes to transfer herpes to another person. A person can transfer herpes to another person, even if the virus is inactive.

Herpes is passed through skin-to-skin contact and can fluctuate in its symptoms, depending on whether one is experiencing a first or recurring episode of herpes. Herpes is known to cause you to experience symptoms off and on. Once you are infected with the virus, it can come and go at any time. Herpes produces painful ulcers and blisters that appear on the skin. 

There are two forms of herpes—HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the form of the virus that causes blisters on the face and mouth. HSV-2, on the other hand, is transmitted sexually through intercourse or other sexual contact, including oral sex. HSV-2 is a herpes virus that causes genital herpes. With genital herpes, sores and blisters show up on the genitals. HSV-2 is technically a virus that leads to the development of genital herpes. HSV-2 can be caused by oral contact with the genitals. 

Herpes can be in both active and inactive states. Studies have found that individuals with herpes can spread the disease to their partner at any time, regardless of whether herpes is active or inactive. With that in mind, it is important to know the symptoms of herpes, so you can determine whether or not you have it.

It is entirely possible to pass herpes to someone else if you touch your mouth and come in contact “with another person’s bodily fluids,” experts say. In the past, many believed that herpes could only be spread through sexual contact, but there are several other ways it can be transmitted. A simple handshake or other physical contact has the ability to spread the virus. When herpes is in an inactive state, it is not producing symptoms and lies dormant in the body.

If a mother has herpes, it is possible for her to pass it to her baby during childbirth. This is unfortunate. However, it is especially likely to happen if a women contracts herpes in her third trimester of pregnancy. HSV levels are the highest in a woman’s third trimester. Herpes antibodies are transferred to the body before a baby is born. A mother who contracts herpes in her last trimester is 30 to 50 percent likely to pass it to her child during childbirth. This happens because your levels of HSV are quite high during this time. 

So how else can you contract herpes non-sexually? You can contract herpes through indirect contact. You can also contract the herpes virus if you share a drink with someone who has herpes. The virus itself may sound pretty innocuous, but contracting herpes is easier than you think. Additionally, it is possible to get herpes if you touch an open sore of someone who has herpes. For this reason, it is important for people with herpes to wash their hands before coming in contact with others, according to Planned Parenthood. If someone with herpes touches their contact lenses and touches someone else, the virus can be passed to that person. 

It is also possible to catch the virus from someone who doesn’t have any visible blisters or active symptoms. Herpes can be active on the surface of the skin. Often called asymptomatic shedding, this is a state when an infected person can pass the virus, despite not having any visible sores. This shedding takes place 10.2 percent of the times that there are no active lesions. The disease can be spread this way if a person does not know they have the virus. 

Those who exhibit active symptoms, such as fever blisters and sores, are likely to transmit the virus. Transmission rates are the highest when the virus is in an active state, and you exhibit visible sores. Herpes has an incubation period of four days, so you typically see the first symptoms of the virus shortly after coming in contact with an infected person.

The herpes virus can lie dormant in your body for long periods of time. However, when the virus becomes active, it causes an outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blisters appear in the torso area during an outbreak of genital herpes. These sores often collect around the rectum and the genital area. 

However, outbreaks of oral herpes cause sores and fever blisters to develop on the mouth, gums, or lips. These sores are very contagious and can be easily passed to another person during an outbreak or when sharing food or drink. Herpes is a lifelong condition, so it is important to learn how to treat it as best as you can. Oral herpes has a number of triggers. Menstrual periods, sun and wind exposure, and dental work have the ability to trigger an outbreak of sores.

Some people are able to cut down on the number of outbreaks by avoiding these things. However, wind and sun exposure are unavoidable, so an outbreak can still take place at any time and for any number of reasons. 

While there is no cure, those with herpes can cut down on their chances of transmitting the virus by avoiding some of the things that trigger an outbreak. While this is not always possible, those with herpes can be cognizant of their symptoms and try to avoid coming in contact with others when symptoms are present. If you want to cut down on your chances of transmitting oral herpes, you can wash linens and towels in boiling water after using them. You should also not share glasses, straws, or eating utensils with others.

Herpes can be spread in the absence of cold sores and fever blisters, so you never truly know if you are being infected. You can take as many precautions as you’d like, but there is always the possibility of contracting herpes unknowingly. Most people do not even know they have the virus when they first contract it. However, in some cases, it can take up to 12 days for symptoms to appear.

Some people with herpes don’t notice symptoms until months or years down the road. Cold sores can be caused by other factors, so it may be easy to confuse herpes symptoms with a typical cold sore. Herpes can also “cause problems” if it is discovered very early or very late in the course of a pregnancy. The mortality rate for infants with herpes is quite high, according to PubMed. This is particularly true when the central nervous system is affected.

In the past HSV-1 was not believed to cause genital herpes, according to WebMD. However, many people are becoming sexually active at a younger age, which increases the chances of developing genital herpes. HSV-2 is most responsible for causing genital herpes. 

If you have genital herpes or are trying to avoid it, it is important to know about the virus’s makeup. HSV-2 resides inside the body’s nerves. When herpes becomes active, it moves to the top of the skin that’s affected by herpes. After an outbreak, herpes moves back into the nerve and resides there until it becomes active again. The virus nestles itself into a ganglion, which is also known as “a mass of nerve tissue.”

This ganglion often stays at the top of the spine until it reemerges at a later date. One fifth of all people age 12 and above have HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. However, 90 percent of those infected are not aware of it. “More women than men are infected,” according to WebMD. Oral herpes is very common, affecting 50 to 80 percent of American adults. This means that many people are walking around with herpes, and the disease is infecting their bodies.

The signs of oral herpes are quite evident, but figuring out what genital herpes is can be confusing. Oral herpes produces sores that are easily identifiable as a typical cold sore. Genital herpes, on the other hand, produces fluid-filled blisters in the genital region. These blisters eventually pop and cause “painful sores that eventually crust over and heal. 

This healing takes place over the course of several days. Genital herpes blisters typically develop on the penis, vagina, scrotum, thighs, and buttocks. Other areas affected include the anus and urethra.

If you suspect that you may have HSV-2, you have a number of test options. A doctor can take a specimen of what looks like a herpes sore and send it to a lab for examination. You could also have a blood test that identifies herpes antibodies. 

 

11 Sources

Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26154662/

https://www.mydr.com.au/sexual-health/herpes-your-questions-answered/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/genital-herpes-beyond-the-basics/print

https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/ask-experts/i-have-herpes-on-my-lips-possibly-in-my-nose-and-in-my-private-area-i-am-also-a-virgin-how-did-i-get-the-std-ive-had-it-since-i-was-14-ish-and-at-the-time-i-had-never-even-had-a-boyfriend

https://healthyhorns.utexas.edu/HT/HT_coldsores.html

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive/genital-herpes

https://www.webmd.com/genital-herpes/genital-herpes-basics#1

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/herpes-hsv1-and-hsv2/oral-herpes


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.