Can you get genital herpes from kissing?

What you need to know about kissing someone with genital herpes.


You cannot get genital herpes by kissing someone who has it on the mouth. You can however, catch genital herpes, by kissing the genitals of someone who is affected.  You can also catch oral herpes by kissing someone who has a cold sore.


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes blisters on and around the genitals. The blisters can be painful and cause significant discomfort.

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What causes herpes?

There are two types of herpes simplex virus - HSV 1 which is mostly transmitted via oral contact and causes cold sores; and HSV 2 which causes genital herpes and is transmitted sexually.

Once infected, people are carriers of HSV for life. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people (or 67% of the population) under the age of 50 have HSV 1 and 417 million people (or 11% of the population) have HSV 2. In many cases, infected people will not experience any symptoms and remain unaware that they are carriers of the herpes virus.


When is genital herpes contagious?

Herpes is contagious even if there are no sores present. However, it is more contagious during an active breakout. Healed ulcers are not considered infectious. Patients are also more contagious just before a breakout and should avoid sexual contact.


How to tell if you have genital herpes?

Genital herpes can be asymptomatic, which means you won’t notice any symptoms. The signs and symptoms of a herpes breakout include:

  • Painful blisters on and/or surrounding the genital area
  • Discomfort such as tingling or burning in the genital area
  • Fever
  • Pain during urination

If you experience symptoms of genital herpes, visit a doctor.


Can you get herpes from saliva?

If a person has HSV, their body fluids, including their saliva, will contain the virus. Therefore, HSV can be transmitted via saliva. You do not usually contract genital herpes when kissing someone on the mouth and getting in touch with their saliva. But you could become infected through oral sex.



  1. World Health Organization: WHO (2017). Herpes simplex virus. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2019].
  2. Mularz, A., Dalati, S. and Pedigo, R.A. (2017). Ob/gyn secrets. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier.
  3. Sauerbrei A. (2016). Herpes Genitalis: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention. Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 76(12), 1310–1317.
  4. CDC (n.d.). Genital Herpes - The Facts. [online] Available at:


Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Information last reviewed 10/13/21

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