Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Oral Herpes

Oral Herpes Overview

Oral herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus causes painful sores on your lips, gums, tongue, roof of your mouth, and inside your cheeks. It also can cause symptoms such as fever and muscle aches.

  • The herpes simplex virus affects only humans. Mouth sores most commonly occur in children aged 1-2 years, but they can affect people at any age and any time of the year.
  • People contract herpes by touching infected saliva, mucous membranes, or skin. Because the virus is highly contagious, most people have been infected by at least 1 herpes subtype before adulthood.
  • After the herpes virus infects you, it has a rather unique ability to proceed to 3 stages.
    • Primary infection: The virus enters your skin or mucous membrane and reproduces. During this stage, oral sores and other symptoms, such as fever, may develop.
      • The virus may not cause any sores and symptoms. You may not know that you have it. This is called asymptomatic infection.
      • Asymptomatic infection occurs twice as often as the disease with symptoms.
    • Latency: From the infected site, the virus moves to a mass of nervous tissue in your spine called the dorsal root ganglion. There the virus reproduces again and becomes inactive.
    • Recurrence: When you encounter certain stresses, emotional or physical, the virus may reactivate and cause new sores and symptoms.

Oral Herpes Causes

Herpes simplex is a DNA virus that causes sores in and around your mouth. Two herpes subtypes may cause these sores.

  • Herpes simplex virus, type 1 or herpes-1, which causes 80% of cases of oral herpes infections
  • Herpes simplex virus, type 2 or herpes-2, which causes the rest
1 | 2 | 3

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.