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Can I Get a Cold Sore from Kissing?

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Ever worry about catching a cold sore by kissing someone? You’re not alone. Chances are, you’ve likely heard about a friend who’s gotten one this way. And while it is possible to get the viral infection from kissing someone who already has it, here’s the truth: there are a number of ways you can actually get a cold sore. Here, discover what you need to know about how cold sores can be spread.

What Causes Cold Sores?

Truth: You can get a cold sore by kissing.

The rumor is true: Kissing someone with a cold sore can transfer the virus that causes it (called herpes simplex virus or HSV-1) from them to you. “One of the most common ways the virus is spread is through kissing, because the virus frequently occurs around the mouth and the lips,” said Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Even if you don’t see the sores, the virus can still be contagious. But you should be especially cautious about kissing someone who has active blisters, because that’s when the virus spreads most easily.

If you’re currently dealing with a cold sore, you’ll want to get rid of it — fast. When you have a cold sore, it may be all you can think about, and it might even stop you from hanging out with people. Thankfully, with medicine like Abreva Cream, you can get rid of your cold sore in two-and-half days1. And Abreva Cream starts to work immediately, based on laboratory studies (use as directed at the first sign of a cold sore).

Truth: You can get a cold sore by sharing utensils.

Sharing isn’t always caring, especially when it comes to silverware. Make it a general rule to always use your own fork, spoon, and knife. Why? “In some cases, cold sores may be spread through fomites, which are inanimate objects, like utensils, that directly touch the infected skin and may carry the virus,” said Dr. Zeichner. So if you have a friend over and can’t remember whether a fork is yours or theirs, it doesn’t hurt to grab a new one.

RELATED: Here’s How to Avoid Cold Sores

Truth: You can get a cold sore by borrowing beauty products.

Think twice before you ask to borrow your friend’s lipstick or a buddy’s lip balm — or before you lend out your own. According to the World Health Organization, the virus can be transferred via saliva, which may be present on something like lip balm. So make your lip balm off limits; it’s completely normal to not share a toothbrush with friends, so consider getting into the same habit with lip balm or lipstick, which falls into a similar category, according to the Mayo Clinic. Another pro tip? “If you use a lipstick when you have a cold sore, you should discard it afterwards,” said Dr. Zeichner.

Whether or not you have a cold sore, the bad news first: “Unfortunately, once you have been infected by the cold sore virus, your body cannot fully clear it,” said Dr. Zeichner. Thus, cold sores can’t be “cured.” But with a product like Abreva Cream, you can heal cold sores and get rid of them in 2.5 days, when used at the first sign2.

1When used at the first sign, median healing time of 4.1 days. 25% of users healed in 2.5 days.
2When used at the first sign, median healing time of 4.1 days. 25% of users healed in 2.5 days.

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