Oral Herpes? How to Keep Living Your Best Sex Life

Young beautiful african american woman in skincare and beauty routine studio shoot.

In my opinion, we could all stand to talk about sex more often. But if there’s one sex topic people tend to shy away from, it’s STIs.

I know, I know. For most of us, it’s easier to discuss sex positions, or oral techniques, or dirty talk, or…pretty much anything else. But the fact is, 50-80% of American adults have oral herpes, ​​which typically shows up as recurrent cold sores. It’s one of the most common STIs out there, and yet it’s wildly misunderstood. 

But you can have an awesome sex life with oral herpes.

The symptoms of oral herpes or HSV-1, including cold sores and fever blisters, are treatable. But I can’t tell you how many worried emails I’ve gotten from folks over the years, fresh off a herpes diagnosis and panicking about their sex life. Is it doomed?

No. Hard no! And here’s why.

You can treat your symptoms.

While herpes is not curable, it’s highly manageable. You can ward off outbreaks and minimize transmission, and you don’t even need a prescription to do it.

Azzurx product packageOne treatment option I’m very excited about is AZZURX*, an all-natural, homeopathic formula that can stop outbreaks before they erupt and quickly heal an active outbreak. It’s $23.99 and you can order it online (yay convenience), but I’ll be real with you for a second. A lot of OTC treatments for the symptoms herpes just dry out your skin, so when this came out I looked into it.

Oral herpes manifests in painful, fluid-filled blisters, a.k.a. cold sores, that cluster around your mouth or under your nose – but this product legit stops and heals the outbreak. AZZURX doesn’t just numb and dry out your skin when an outbreak starts to emerge, it heals it. Especially when you apply at first tingle. Plus, the single-use applicators are fantastic because they’re sterile, and keep you from re-contaminating yourself. Seriously, AZZURX it’s incredibly effective.  

That’s going to go a long way toward empowering you. You know what else will? Normalizing herpes, by finding HSV+ voices.

If you’ve just been diagnosed, find a community.

Tricia Wise, aka @safe.slut on Instagram, is an amazing influencer in this space. As an HSV+ advocate, she posts about living with her diagnosis and being a sex-positive baddie at the same time. She’s one of many influencers working hard to change the stigma around herpes.

Suzanna Elzbieta, aka @suzbub on TikTok, is another HSV+ influencer who posts thoughtful, personal videos about HSV, dating, sex, and more. Shana Singleton, aka @coachshanasingleton on TikTok, posts about HSV+ resources, disclosures with partners, having a positive mindset, parenting, and more. These are the sex-positive voices that will guide you, give you information, and show you how to celebrate your sex life – not shy away from it. 

You can have an open dialogue with future partners about sexual health, and ask them about their status too.

If you’ve got oral herpes, you should disclose this to partners. But you can do it in a way that’s collaborative, getting everyone’s sexual health status on the table.

As far as timing goes, have the conversation before sex– but it’s OK to wait a bit after you’ve gotten to know each other. Text, phone, or in-person all work, and your opening line could look something like: 

“Hey! Before I connect with anyone sexually, I always ask about the last time they got tested and what the results were. And of course, I’ll share my results with you too.” 

(Frankly, you may get all the information you need based on how they respond to that question. Are they open and receptive? Or are they cagey / judgmental / dismissive?)

When you disclose, you may get a less-than-ideal response. Or, you may get a tell-me-more type of response, in which case you can share information and talk it through. But the more comfortable you get with disclosures, you’ll get a feel for the people who’ve done their homework around herpes, and want the education. In fact, some HSV+ folks put their sexual health status in their dating app profile for that very reason, to streamline connections.

Here’s something interesting, though. A sexual health conversation does all of your potential partners a solid, since…. 

Herpes often isn’t included on the STI panel.

You read that right. Very often, herpes is not included when people “test for everything” at the doctor’s office. 

It’s one reason why a ton of people don’t even realize they have herpes– especially because kissing and sexual contact is just one way to get HSV-1. It’s often contracted in childhood from sharing water bottles and utensils, or simply getting a kiss from loved ones. The virus can be dormant in your nerve cells for years, and some people never develop any symptoms.

I don’t say any of that to scare you – but to reassure you. Because the herpes virus and its symptoms (like cold sores) are so widespread, the stigma is starting to shift. And yes, it’s wise for all of us to get tested, to have the information we need. But do you need to feel ashamed? 

Absolutely not. The more comfortable you get talking about this aspect of your sexual health, you’ll likely find that all sex talk gets a little easier. Which just so happens to be a pretty attractive quality.

Want more? Sign up for my newsletter and get sex secrets on the regular.

*Use code “EMILY20” for 20% off your order at Azzurx