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 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

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