Transmission of Cold Sores
When a noninfected person has direct skin-to-skin or mucous membrane contact with someone who has an active cold sore, transmission generally occurs. Touching an item that has come into contact with a cold sore is another way to spread to the virus. Kissing a person with an active cold sore is the most common means of transmission.
How Are Cold Sores Spread?
Cold sores (also known as fever blisters or known medically as herpes labialis) are caused by a highly contagious virus known as the herpes simplex virus (see Cold Sore Causes). This virus is spread through direct skin-to-skin or mucous membrane contact when a cold sore is present.
It may also be spread through contact with an item that has come in contact with a cold sore. There are actually two types: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2).
There are many common ways through which cold sore transmission can occur. The most common way is through kissing a person with an active cold sore. Other common ways that cold sores are spread include:
- Sharing utensils, drinks, napkins, towels, toothbrushes, or any other objects that have touched a cold sore
- Touching the cold sore and then touching the skin of another person
- Performing oral sex on a person with active genital herpes (the herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes can also cause cold sores).
Cold sores can be transmitted at any time that cold sore symptoms are present. This means that transmission can occur from the first tingle until the cold sore is completely healed.