[Question #2442] STD risk from shared razors

44 months ago
This one is for Dr. Hook, if possible:

I have shared quite a few razors in my lifetime, I was just wondering if it was possible for there to be any STDs transmitted in this way, (including HSV-1, although I'm very aware this doesn't count as a typical STD). I cut myself and bleed multiple times every time I shave, so I'm also assuming this may increase my risk given that I've shared quite a few razors in my life.

I also am fairly certain that I've kissed some of my past girlfriends/had oral sex performed on me while they had cold sores. Knowing what I know now, I will certainly avoid sexual behavior when I see such a thing; however, at that time I wasn't fully aware of what a 'cold sore' really was. How much should I be concerned about this and what should I do?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
44 months ago
Users do not select the moderator who responds to their questions. Dr. Hook's and my opinions and advice always are more or less identical, even if our styles have some differences.

This question partly duplicates those in your two previous discussions with Terri Warren, so my replies are brief.

First, shared razors:  Although listed as a theoretical risk for HSV1, the number of infections so transmitted probably is very small. As Terri told you, the large majority of oral or facial HSV1 infections are acquired from kissing (or in young childhood, from contact with other kids' saliva). Even many shared razor events would makes little if any difference in your chance of having HSV1.

Second, kissing:  It does not transmit any STD. (As just noted above, oral HSV1 usually is transmitted by kissing, but oral HSV1 is not considered an STD.)

What should you do now and how concerned should you be? Terri gave you her advice and mine is similar. You really need not be concernd at all. Stop any and all razor sharing -- the risk is low, but why take the chance? Second, as you say, avoid kissing someone (or allowing them to perform oral sex on you) if a potential partner has a visible sore on or near the lips that might be herpes. (You can google oral herpes to find lots of photos to give you a sense of what to look for.) Third, you may already have HSV1 and could consider having an HSV1 blood test to check it out. Almost half of all adults have positive blood tests for it, and most are asymptomatic, i.e. no recognized outbreaks. If you are already infected, you are immune to a new infection with HSV1.

I hope this information has been helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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44 months ago
Hmm I see. The reason I ask is because I've seen you in another post say that transmissions through third-party objects happen "fairly often."

I meant to say how concerned should i be about in the past having come into sexual contact with cold sores? Dr Hook will usually say dont worry about it and dont bother getting tested, but with you and Terri Warren your suggestions seem to be more open-ended and say that one 'can' be tested. In this particular situation, since ive come into sexual contact with cold sores, I was curious if that means a recommendation for testing was in order. I dont particularly want to be tested and then have to disclose, but i also dont want to be acting immorally by refusing to get tested. This is the inner conflict that isnt easily resolved, and the reason I ask for Dr Hook in the first place is because of these resolute answers that he tends to give about things.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
44 months ago
You have misinterpreted something I wrote elsewhere. HSV transmission rarely occurs frequently objects, environmental contamination, etc and I am certain I never said or implied that.

The only reason I mention HSV testing is that you obviously are obsessed by this, and I'm pretty sure that's probably why Terri said you should consider it. I agree with Dr. Hook that I do not recommend testing, but like Terri I would say it is an option if learning you are positive (or negative) would allay your anxieties about it.

I see no reason for "inner conflict". If you have a positive blood test for HSV1, but no symptoms, most STD and herpes experts (and ethicists) would agree you would not be obligated to disclose anything to future sex partners. Also, a negative test would not prove you don't have it anyway:  up to 30% of people with HSV1 have negative blood tests. 

You have one more follow-up question before this thread is closed. Take care with it:  this being your third (maybe fourth?) question about these issues, it will have to be your last. The forum does not permit repeated questions on the same topic or exposure; future questions on this topic will be deleted without reply and without refund of the posting fee. This policy is based on compassion, not criticism, and is designed to reduce the temptation to keep paying for questions with obvious answers. In addition, repeat or anxiety driven questions have little educational value for other users, one of the forum’s main purposes. Thank you for your understanding.

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44 months ago
Well, that just about clears the whole thing up. Thank you!
44 months ago
But supposing I did get them at some point but not anymore, would that also be sufficient for non-disclosure as well? I dont think i get them now but i may remember getting them a while back
44 months ago
(I hope this answer is not obvious)
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
44 months ago
I'm glad to hear your concerns have been "cleared up", but I don't understand these last three comments. Does "may remember" that you "...did get them at some point but not anymore" mean you had possible herpes outbreaks? Genital or oral? And what does it mean that you "hope this answer is not obvious"?  You haven't asked a question, so I have no clue what "answer" you mean.

Normally this thread would now be closed, but I'll leave it open for one final clearly stated question or clarifying information. Be completely open about what symptoms and testing you have had. We cannot give meaninful advice without full information.

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44 months ago
My question is this: If I remembered that I had had a cold sore years back, but now don't get them anymore, does that mean I don't have to disclose?

Or if you remember one at any point in your life then you ought to disclose? 

And also if you get cold sores at any point, will you continue to get them or will it at some point go dormant?

I have severe anxiety, which even manages to tinker with my memory, so these kinds of things aren't perfectly clear to me. Thanks for allowing me to put the question more clearly.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
44 months ago
OK, now I've got it. Many (most?) people with herpes due to HSV1, either oral or genital, have just a few oubreaks over a couple of years, and then none after that. Therefore, it is very common for people who acquire oral HSV1 in childhood or as a young adult to have outbreaks for a while, then none. (Be clear on what a herpes outbreak is -- typically blisters/sores on the lips, not sores in the mouth. The last usually are canker sores, unrelated to herpes and not properly called cold sores or fever blisters.)

To my knowledge, such persons with distant past cold sores have not been studied to see how often they shed virus in the mouth without symptoms, and therefore their risk for transmission by others. However, it probably is rare and personally I see no obligation to disclose this to anyone, including sex partners. Many would choose to do so, however; it's a personal decision without a right or wrong answer, in my opinion. For every person with past oral herpes with a vague recollection of possible cold sores, my guess is there are 10 or 100 others who don't have that memory (e.g. when it happened when quite young, e.g. under 5 years old or so). They of course cannot and will not disclose. The minority who do remember won't make much difference in the overall frequency of HSV1 infections in their personal contacts and sex partners.

Once again, I hope the discussion has been helpful to you. But please note the policy above about repeat questions. This forum is not an appropriate resource for management of your (or others') OCD or anxiety. Thanks again for your understanding. Best wishes to you.

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