A viewer with recurring cold sores asked if she was still contagious because she had a sore that was 11 days old. The scab was gone but the area was red and slightly sore. She wanted to know… When was it ok to kiss her partner again, without risk of spreading the virus. For anyone who has cold sores, it’s so important to know when they’re contagious and when they’re not, which is what I’m going to discuss now.
To be clear, cold sores, which are the same as Herpes outbreaks, consist of tiny blisters on the lip, or elsewhere on the face, and are caused by the Herpes virus. These outbreaks can be rare, happening just once in a lifetime or recurring, happening a few times each year. And yes, it’s the same family of virus that causes genital herpes, but today I’m only talking about facial sores.
So when are you no longer contagious? If you don’t treat this viral infection with oral antiviral pills, then by the time the scab or crust comes off it’s usually not contagious. That can take a week or longer. And that applies whether you don’t treat it at all or you treat it with topical products. But if you are treated with oral antivirals like Valtrax or Famvir, then by the fourth day after the treatment is finished, it’s usually not contagious.
And here’s some good news: Newer treatment schedules often require only one day of pills!
But regardless of your treatment, remember that the Herpes virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact. During an outbreak, the way you can spread your virus is by the part of your face or lip with the outbreak touching your partner’s skin, regardless of where on your partners body your sore touches. But as long as you and your partner are careful during that short contagious period, these outbreaks need not any meaningful impact on both of your lives.