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Date of last update: 10/18/2017.

Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: How contagious are my cold sores?

 jq313 - Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:46 am

I have been getting cold sores ever since I was a small child. Is it possible to spread the virus to my children when they drink from my straw when I have a cold sore? What if I were to share a cigarette with someone when I have a cold sore? Is my toothbrush capable of infecting other parts of my lip when I have a cold sore? If I blow up a balloon when I have a cold sore and my child puts their mouth on the balloon can they get a cold sore? Or, is transmission only from skin-to-skin contact?
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:13 pm

Hello jg313,

The Herpes virus is most active when the cold sore is fresh, or has bubbles of moisture that break or leak. However, transmission is very easy, and can transmit even when the lesion is drying. Yes, your children could contract it by drinking from your straw; yes, you can transmit it by sharing a cigarette; your toothbrush is not as likely to spread the cold sore to other parts of your mouth, but could; and if your children put their mouths on the spot where you placed your mouth to blow up the balloon, they can contract the virus - plus, if they put their hands there and then touch their mouths, they can contract the virus. It's important for you to avoid such pitfalls, as well as being scrupulous about hand washing. Skin to skin contact can also transmit the virus, including oral sexual activity. You can still blow up the balloon, but wash your hands first, and then disinfect the spot that your lips touched before giving it to your children. If you have a drink with a straw, be sure to have extra straws for your children to use, and be sure your hands are clean and haven't touched your cold sore when you touch their straws. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Good luck!

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