You all remember that one kid in middle school? You know, the one that seemed like he just owned a bunch of cargo shorts and no regular pants. He didn’t necessarily know what STDs were, but the only “bad” sexual word that he knew was herpes. So he really liked talking about it. Like, a lot. Herpes can be SO fun to randomly whisper in the middle of a silent classroom… When you’re a twelve-year-old boy.
This kid wasn’t really your friend per-say, but he would always find you in the hall and tell you these weird sex tidbits: Your substitute teacher with the mustache was a porn star back in the day, the head cheerleader got pregnant from giving a blow job, that one guy gave a major hickey to that one girl and you can like totally see it all over her neck.
You know, regular ol’ kid stuff.
Remember when kids used to run up to you in the cafeteria and ask if you, “liked your biscuit buttered,” or they would pinch your arm to “see what your sex noise sounded like.” Sometimes you’d be asked, “do the curtains match the drapes?” or you’d be prompted to “smell my finger” from some dumb kid who had probably just put his finger in his armpits to trick all the other 6th graders who were none the wiser.
There’s always that instant flush of shame when you feel like you’re on the outside of an inside joke. You even started to wonder if you missed that chapter of health class, where they taught you all the really weird dirty jokes? Half the time you’d laugh along with everyone else, just so you wouldn’t look like a total nerd.
And as far away as middle school seems, perhaps there are some sexual rumors that have stuck around, even past the 90s/early 2000s. Are these rumors still around because we never bothered to look them up? Perhaps the biggest rumor that lives on from middle school is the notion that herpes is just a funny word that you can joke around about, but you never have to worry about getting? Are we maybe all just laughing along with the joke that is called a life of never considering the possibility of STDs?
We’re here to clear up some of the confusion.
Let’s start with that kid who was obsessed with herpes. He probably informed you that you could get herpes from kissing someone with bad hygiene, or that you could get it from sharing a drink, or scariest of all, you could maybe get herpes just from sitting on the toilet seat. That last one led you to many years of hovering.
Can You Get Herpes From Kissing?
The Short Answer: YES!
PSA, You can 100% acquire herpes just by kissing someone (or getting kissed by someone) who has the herpes virus.
Unfortunately, in this case, weird-cargo-shorts kid was right.
The herpes simplex virus (herpes’ formal name) is most often transmitted through direct contact with a person who’s been infected. This can mean lip-locking with someone who has an open sore or swapping saliva with that one cutie, even though they have no visible sores.
When HSV-1 or 2 is contracted through oral practices, this referred to as “oral herpes.” Oral herpes most commonly presents itself as cold sores or fever blisters.
Common Oral Herpes Symptoms
- Cold Sores/Fever Blisters
- Tingling Sensations
- Flu-Like Symptoms
- Muscle Aches
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Pain When Swallowing
However, in many cases, people are unaware that they even have herpes, due to the fact that this disease can be asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms at all.
The good news is if you’ve been infected, you aren’t in the minority!
It is believed that 75-80 percent of Americans carry at least one of the two herpes simplex viruses. That’s right; a whopping 80 percent of the U.S. has been affected by those pesky smooch sores.
Unfortunately, these statistics drastically increase your odds of locking lips with someone who has herpes at some point in your life.
Let’s face it; we’ve all been there. Sometimes you’ve just gotta have a rando make-out sesh. You meet a cute guy at your cousins’ wedding. He seems really into you, you guys have a few drinks, and before you know it, you’re hardcore kissing on the dance floor in plain sight of your grandma, as “The Chicken Dance” blares in the background.
Oh wait, we haven’t all been there? Just kidding. Awkward. Anyways, so yeah, you’ve kissed someone new, and for whatever reason, you’ve started to feel funny… and you begin to feel your inner middle-school-self reemerge, as you panic, and start to wonder, is it herpes?
A good indicator as to whether you’ve recently gotten bit by the herpes bug would be the “prodrome” or the early symptoms indicating the onset of herpes. Many can tell when a cold sore is forming, based on a tingling or burning sensation that may be present a few days prior.
The first cold sore outbreak can be the worst. It can be accompanied by nausea, fever, or muscle aches. As your body experiences more outbreaks, it will begin to build a stronger immunity to the virus, thus causing the symptoms to lessen with time.
Is Herpes Lifelong?
The Short Answer: again, yes.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for herpes.
The herpes virus specifically behaves in a way that makes it difficult to cure. When the virus is latent or not active, it hides within the nervous system.
When herpes is latent, it’s pretty much invisible. It doesn’t cause any damage to your nervous system; it just hangs out there until it finds a time it wants to pop up and say hello. Even when the virus becomes active, there is still always a portion of it that is hiding within the nervous system.
So Why Care?
It’s important to be aware of your status because the herpes virus can sometimes cause meningitis or encephalitis. Herpes viruses have been linked to Recurrent Lymphocytic Meningitis (Mollaret’s meningitis), which is characterized by sudden attacks of meningitis symptoms that last for 2-7 days and are separated by symptom-free (latent) intervals lasting for weeks, months or years.
Additionally, being unaware of your status can cause further spread of the virus and may negatively impact those closest to you. Oral herpes is often transferred to small children or babies when older family members give them kisses. In this case, the child may never even be aware that they have developed the virus until they start getting cold sores.
Can You Get Herpes From Sharing Drinks?
Okay, so we cleared up all that herpes from kissing business. But… you can’t get it out of your head, that one time that Chad from homeroom told you that it was disgusting when you took a drink from your BFF Cynthia’s milk carton. BECAUSE HERPES.
Bad news guys, Chad was onto something. You can indeed catch herpes by sipping from the same straw.
If it involves virus-infected saliva, you best believe that you are susceptible.
Apply everything you learned above to this. Oral Herpes symptoms will vary from person to person, but they will sometimes show no symptoms at all. Herpes is a lifelong disease, but it’s important to still get tested to prevent spreading the disease.
We know you’re probably on the edge of your seat for this one (metaphorically):
Can You Get Herpes From The Toilet Seat?
Last, but definitely not least, on the scale of weird things that you heard about herpes as a kid: Can you get herpes from a particularly grody bathroom experience?
Herpes is most commonly transmitted through contact with open sores or infected bodily fluids. If the virus was left on a toilet seat, and it was kept at a very specific temperature, then immediate contact could result in developing herpes.
However, It is highly unlikely to contract herpes from a dry inanimate object.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states, “You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels.”
So, safe to say, don’t think twice about getting comfortable in the “wiz palace” because UTIs are totally a thing, and you should never hold back the need to pee.
Though we have established that it is very unlikely, HSV-2 would be the strand of herpes most likely to be contracted during your potty time. Due to the location of exposure, this would be considered genital herpes.
Common Genital Herpes Symptoms
- Vesicles (a small fluid or air-filled cavity sack in the skin)
- Painful Ulcers
- Itching or burning in the genital area
These symptoms seem to be pretty apparent or noticeable, but two out of every three people with genital herpes are unaware that they possess the virus at all. Many people with genital herpes experience no symptoms. When symp-
toms are not apparent, is when viruses are most likely to be spread.
How Common are Genital Herpes Anyways?
The CDC has estimated that 776,000 U.S. citizens are infected annually by HSV-2. It is difficult to determine how many of these cases are oral herpes or genital herpes, especially due to the rising number of genital herpes brought on through oral pleasure.
Congratulations, You Passed Middle School Sex Ed!
So it turns out everything you heard in middle school wasn’t all total bunk, and even though Cargo Shorts Mcgee didn’t know how to spell “orange,” he did know a few surprisingly true ways that you could contract herpes, like kissing or sharing straws. Which makes you kind of wonder if he was right about buttering biscuits, But that’s best saved for a different blog post.
Now go forth, and live your life, no longer in the dark. The cloudy fog of middle school uncertainty has been lifted. If you think you may have come into contact with herpes, get tested sooner rather than later, to prevent the spread of disease.
What Should You Do?
If you’re worried that you might have herpes, get tested! We recommend ordering both the HSV-1 test and HSV-2 test.
Our doctors at STDcheck.com suggest waiting to get tested at least 4-6 weeks after potential exposure. It is important to wait because the body needs time to develop the antibodies which our tests search for. If a test is taken before the antibodies develop, it could cause a false negative result.
Once you find out your status, there are antiviral medications available that can reduce the frequency and severity of herpes symptoms. Medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, are the most effective medications available for people with herpes. Our doctors can even prescribe medication for you.
Get tested now for HSV-1 and HSV-2.