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?
Josh*

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 sex, which is the only guaranteed way to prevent HSV-2 infection), 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: November 2010

Have a question? Ask the experts.

Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.