7 cold sore myths we need to stop believing right now

Dec 1, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Image: IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Getty Images Plus

There's no reason to be shy about cold sores.

They've picked up a stigma, mostly because of all of the untrue and unfounded info that's out there, but they're really not as big of a deal as you probably think.

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These are some of the most common myths being passed around — and the truth you should know.

1. Cold sores aren't that common

Cold sores are way more common than you think. In fact, as many as 90 percent of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to the virus, though many don't show symptoms.

2. Cold sores aren't herpes

Sorry to break it to you, but they are. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are usually caused by HSV-1, while genital sores can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2.

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3. You get them from having unprotected sex

While it is true that cold sores can be transmitted through sex, they can also be transferred by the simple sharing of saliva. That means you can catch it from puckering up or from even more innocent acts like sharing a drink or a razor. One more reason not to share your lipstick, ladies!

4. Cold sores and canker sores are the same thing

I think it's pretty safe to say we've all had a sore in or on our mouth at some point, but that doesn't mean we all have herpes. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are ulcers that don't show up on the outside of your lips, and they're not contagious.

5. Cold sores on the mouth can't be transferred to the genitals

Sorry, ladies, but letting your man "go downtown" with a cold sore puts you at serious risk for genital herpes. Unfortunately HSV-1, which usually causes cold sores, can cause breakouts in both places.

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6. You're only contagious if you can see a sore

The first sign of an oncoming cold sore is usually a tingly feeling, and cold sores are contagious from that first tingle until they're completely healed over.

7. They eventually go away

No, I'm not saying the cold sore on your mouth will never leave, but HSV will never go away. There is no cure, so once it's in your system, there's a good chance you'll get another sore eventually. Be aware of what you need to do to keep it from spreading, and you can go on with your life as usual.

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