Condoms and Herpes

by Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer

Numerous questions come up regarding herpes and safe sex, and specifically use of condoms.

Here's a quick rundown on the dos and don'ts:

  • Many people with herpes are asymptomatic and don't even know that they have it, so your rule should be to always use a condom with a new or current partner. Latex condoms are the best. Add a spermicidal to increase the effectiveness and protection.

  • If you have herpes and experience genital pain, assume an outbreak is imminent and refrain from having sex (or if this applies to your partner, do not have sex with them).

  • Do not have oral or traditional sex in the presence of lesions -- a condom is not sufficient protection. Be aware that if the active virus is present outside the area covered by the condom, herpes can be transmitted.

  • If you are allergic to latex condoms, using lambskin condoms is not equivalent protection. Using a spermicidal can increase the effectiveness, but it is not as effective as the latex condom. Talk to your doctor or a health professional if faced with this situation.

  • Do not kiss anyone with frank lesions on the face.

  • If you decide to have oral sex, a dental dam should be used to protect against the transmission of herpes.

  • Herpes can be transmitted by sweat, saliva, and vaginal fluids.

  • If you have herpes and touch the lesions, you can technically infect another person with your hands if you touch mucosal tissue.

  • Always wash hands with very warm water and soap.

  • Never use saliva to moisten hard contact lenses if you have oral herpes. Wash your hands with soapy hot water before handling contact lenses.

  • Remember that herpes can be transmitted even if no lesions are present.

  • Finally it's important to note that if you have herpes, you are at increased risk of HIV/AIDS if you are exposed.

Amy Hendel, P.A.
Meet Our Writer
Amy Hendel, P.A.

Known as "The HealthGal", Amy Hendel P.A. is a medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, find her on Twitter @Healthgal1103 and on Facebook @TheHealthGal. Check “Daily Health News” at Her personal mantra? “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”