Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Herpes gladiatorum

On call

Herpes gladiatorum

Q. My wife doesn't want our son to go out for the wrestling team because she's worried he might catch herpes. I thought herpes was contracted from a very different contact sport. Please enlighten us.

A. It's always nice to be able to resolve a marital conflict by telling husband and wife that they are both right. In this case, the reason for the tie score is that there are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV).

HSV type 1 is the main cause of cold sores, also known as fever blisters. People with HSV-1 infections shed the virus in their saliva, and it spreads to folks who come in contact with infected oral secretions. In some cases, the first exposure can cause severe oral pain, numerous blisters, fever, and swollen glands. Much more often, though, the infection is mild or even unapparent. Either way, the virus settles into an inactive or dormant state in nerve fibers, but fever or stress can activate it, producing a cold sore on the lips.

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