Do you immediately imagine a horror scenario between your legs with genital herpes? You’re not the only one. The chilling images on the internet leave little to the imagination and don’t wish on your worst enemy. But despite being one of the most feared sexually transmitted diseases, it is also one of the most common STIs out there. In fact, chances are you are also infected.
Here are eight misconceptions about genital herpes
1. A cold sore is exactly the same virus as herpes on or in your vagina, penis or anus
Whether you have a cold sore or genital herpes, both are caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HVS). The virus has two types: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2). Although HSV-1 is mainly the culprit of a nasty cold sore, you can also get this variant on your genitals. You can get genital herpes from a cold sore and vice versa.
2. Even if you use a condom, you can always get or pass on herpes
This may sound scary, but you can’t completely avoid getting herpes or passing it on to someone. A condom does not protect 100 percent. But this is not all. 50 to 70 percent of the Dutch are infected with HSV, while most have no complaints. But even though you have no idea that you have a herpes infection of the genitals or mouth, you can give it to others. You don’t have to have an outbreak to infect someone. However, the chance of infection without an outbreak is smaller than if you have complaints, but you can never rule it out.
3. Does your partner suddenly have herpes? This does not mean that one of you has cheated
Although most outbreaks occur a week after infection, herpes can also be in your body for years without causing any symptoms. So you can suddenly have your first outbreak of an infection that you contracted a long time ago for your current partner. Although the other person may have cheated, this certainly does not always have to be the case.
4. You can’t cure herpes
Do you have herpes? Then it stays in your body forever and you cannot heal from it. Fortunately, outbreaks themselves are over after about three weeks, but you can have another attack at any time. Fortunately, the first attack of herpes is usually the most severe.
5. You can partly prevent a herpes outbreak by living a healthy life
Do you live unhealthy, so that your resistance is more often on the low side? Then the chance of an outbreak is greater than if you live a healthy life. However, you cannot completely prevent an outbreak with a healthy lifestyle. You can get blisters faster when you have your period, you have the flu, you are stressed or when your resistance is lower. Circumstances that unfortunately you cannot always control yourself.
6. You can’t catch herpes from the toilet
Good to know! You don’t give herpes from being in the same room. Because the virus dies when it leaves your body, you can safely share a shower, toilet, washing machine or swimming pool with others. You can get herpes if you have sex. You can move it from the penis, vagina or ass to the mouth and vice versa, but you can also move it with your fingers.
7. Are you pregnant? Then herpes can be dangerous for your child
Although herpes is not dangerous, it can be risky for the baby during pregnancy. Your body normally produces substances that protect your child against this virus, but sometimes you can still pass it on. This especially happens if you are infected with the virus later in pregnancy. This is because your body does not have enough time to make the antibodies for the baby. Therefore always discuss this with your gynaecologist.
8. Herpes can cause a lot of discomfort, but it is not dangerous
While herpes can be super annoying, uncomfortable, and painful, it’s not dangerous. The only thing the herpes virus can physically cause are those annoying outbreaks. Mentally, however, it’s a different story. Due to the prevailing stigma surrounding herpes, there are many people who are quite ashamed. The blisters are therefore often nothing compared to what the effect of herpes can have on your mental health and (sex) life. Trust us, everything will be fine. You are anything but dirty.
Are you concerned or have questions about STDs or sex? Do not hesitate to contact your doctor, friends, family or an expert via a helpline.
Sources: STD AIDS Netherlands, DeGynecologist and Ikazia Hospital
Are you already following Women’s Health on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok?