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Chances of Getting Herpes

Sep 12, 2016

If you are a sexually active person, you are always at a risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) like herpes, unless of course you use some form of protection. The problem is that most people with herpes have no symptoms, so they can unknowingly spread it to their sexual partners. You can become infected by having anal, vaginal, or even oral sex with someone who already has the disease. A herpes sore contains fluids that carry the virus and you become infected when your skin touches those fluids. Even in the absence of herpes sores, the risks of getting herpes are still there because an infected person releases the virus through the skin. Using some form of protection is the best way to lower your risk of becoming infected.

What Are the Chances of Getting Herpes?

Many people ask about ways they can determine their risk of getting herpes. However, that depends on various factors.

  • You are less likely to become infected if you wear condom when having sex with someone who is infected with HSV2.
  • Whether or not your partner already has herpes sores helps determine your risk of getting herpes. Outbreaks usually increase the risk to manifold.
  • You are less likely to become infected though if your partner is taking anti-viral medications. 
  • Moreover, how frequently you engage in sexual activity is another factor affecting your chances of getting herpes.

In case you are engaging in sexual activities with some who has an active herpes rash, your chance of contracting the infection is around 75-80%. That is only when you are not using a condom. The risk of getting herpes does not change with the change in sexual activity – the chances remain the same whether you have oral sex, vaginal sex, or anal sex. You can even affect your mouth when having oral sex with someone having genital herpes.

While the use of condoms really help reduce the overall risk of getting herpes, it is not completely effective against the disease. The reason is that you may still get the infection through pre-condom contact. Nevertheless, the use of condom is still strongly recommended to prevent the transfer of herpes and many other sexually transmitted diseases.

Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Herpes

Getting in touch with your doctor and having a few tests done is probably the best way to determine your chances of getting herpes. However, you can take several steps to greatly reduce your risk of becoming infected.

1. Practice Safer Sex

It is always better to avoid getting herpes in the first plan than looking for a treatment once you already have it. The best way to prevent STDs is to practice safer sex. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to discuss everything about STI with your healthcare provider even before you get in a sexual relationship. It is even better to have your partner and yourself tested because you may not know either of you already has an STI.
  • Be very responsible when engaging in sexual activities and never have sex with someone who has symptoms of an STI.
  • Restrict yourself to one sexual partner at a time to significantly lower your risk of getting infected.
  • Wear condoms when having sex to prevent the transmission of STIs. Using condoms is a good idea even when you are on birth control pills or using other contraceptive methods.

2. Take Special Care During Pregnancy

Getting herpes during pregnancy increases your risk of transferring the infection to your baby at the time of delivery. Therefore, you should be extra cautious when engaging in sexual activities during pregnancy.

  • Inform your doctor about any outbreak of genital herpes you may have had in the past.
  • Inform your doctor if you are currently dealing with genital herpes.
  • Do not have unprotected sex to lower your chances of getting herpes.
  • Avoid oral sex when your partner has cold sores – the virus (HSV-1) causes cold sores and it's also responsible for causing herpes in newborns.
  • Talk to your doctor and take antiviral medications to lower the risk of an outbreak.
  • Consider delivery by cesarean section if you have genital herpes at the time of birth.

3. Additional Tips

In addition, you can also consider some other pointers to lower your risk of getting herpes. For instance:

  • Ask your partner about his/her sexual history and if they have switched partners in the past.
  • Do not have sex with multiple partners at a time.
  • Never have sex with someone who has sores on genitals. It means they have active herpes and you are at a greater risk of getting it by having sex with them.
  • Avoid engaging in oral sex with someone who has oral herpes or else you may end up getting genital herpes.
  • Get your partner and yourself tested for genital herpes to ensure you do not end up deal with any complication later.
  • Never have sex when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being intoxicated impairs judgment and makes you have sex with someone who has herpes or other STIs.

What Health Problems Will It Cause?

You will have to deal with emotional and physical consequences for not using protection against STIs. It can hurt you emotionally because the symptoms of genital herpes are usually quite painful and the fact that the condition is incurable can even lead to depression.

Sometimes, you may even have to deal with complications of genital herpes. For instance, it can spread to other parts of your body, including the eyes and the liver. This is usually the case when you have a compromised immune system or you have been infected for very long. Having a weak immune system also increases your risk of developing bacterial infections that can cause serious complications. It is therefore important to take necessary steps and avoid getting herpes in the first place.