Herpes & Swimming

Herpes is an extremely common infectious disease caused by the herpes simplex virus one and herpes simplex virus 2. The majority of the population has been exposed to herpes and is a carrier of the virus. Herpes can infect the lips,mouth, throat, eyes skin and external genitalia. A person is infectious a day or two before the appearance of a sore and until the sore resolves itself.

Herpes is not spread in chlorine-filled pools. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)


An individual can come into contact with virus by kissing, hugging, touching a person with an active sore. A person is extremely rarely infected with the virus through the water in a swimming pool, especially if the pool is chlorinated. The herpes virus is killed seconds after coming into contact with water and even faster if the water contains chlorine. No herpes infection has been confirmed to have taken place in a chlorinated swimming pool.


When a person is exposed to herpes for the first time they suffer a week long illness which can include pharyngitis, fever, headache, general malaise as well as other symptoms. This illness is capped by an outbreak of fluid filled blisters. These blisters reoccur in the years following infection because of the virus is now dormant in the body. These blisters can reoccur periodically for an individuals entire life. It is a popular misconception that chlorine can cause herpes reactivation. Research has shown no such correlation.


An active herpes infection can be treated using anti-viral medications. These medications can be administered in orally and topically. These medications limit the amount of virus found in the blisters and the length that the blister is active. It also can limit the severity of symptoms during the initial infection.


Herpes complications are rare but serious. Herpes is known to cause blindness, birth defects, premature labor and encephalitis. In extreme cases some of these ailments can even be fatal. Treatment using anti-viral medications will usually prevent serious complications.

Self Infection

A herpes infection can be transferred from one portion of the body to another. If you touch an active lesion and then without washing your hands with soap there is a possibility of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. This is not possible in chlorinated water but there is a very low risk of such transmission in water that does not contain soap or chlorine.

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