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Is It Possible to Develop an Immunity to Genital Herpes?

Can you develop immunity to genital herpes if you had cold sores frequently as a child?

No. Having cold sores now or as a child does not make you immune to genital herpes.

Usually, cold sores on the mouth are caused by the HSV-1 virus and genital sores are caused by the HSV-2 virus. So someone who has HSV-1 can still get an infection with HSV-2.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It can be passed from person to person even if a partner has no sores or other signs of an outbreak. Other than abstinence (not having any type of sex, including oral or anal sex), the best way to avoid getting herpes is to use a condom. Use condoms during any type of sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). Girls receiving oral sex should have their partners use a dental dam every time to protect against STDs.

If one partner has a herpes outbreak, avoid sex — even with a condom or dental dam — until all sores have healed.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.