If you have the herpes simplex virus, it’ll be with you for the remainder of your life. There is (currently) no cure. But, the probability of drool triggering a cold sore outbreak is extremely low. The likelihood of spreading HSV-1 via a saliva-infected pillow, for example, is also small.

Although unlikely, coming into contact with your own saliva (or that of another person), if it happens almost instantaneously, can be problematic in certain circumstances. To correctly address your concerns, you’ll need a general understanding of cold sores (and why they occur). Understanding the difference between viral exposure and viral transmission is also incredibly important.

We will explain more about the causes of sleep time drooling and how this can be controlled (or even prevented). You will also learn about HSV-1 infected saliva and how long it can survive outside of the human body. Finally, we’ll explore the potential risks that mouth secretions can pose to yourself (infecting other facial areas and the fingers), as well as your partner.

What Causes Excessive Salivation When I Go to Sleep?

Drooling, also known as sialorrhea, can occur during sleep for a host of reasons. While some can be serious, most drooling is caused by improper posture during sleep or a minor sinus ailment. Drooling, in terms of the physical manifestation, is caused by a saliva build up that is not swallowed. When your throat fails to engage the swallow reflex, the saliva drips out of your mouth.

Issues that are not resolved will continue to result in drooling and general mouth concerns.

Noted below are some of the more problematic causes of increased saliva and sleep time drooling:

  • Medications that hamper the central nervous system
  • Various neurological ailments
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Mercury poisoning

Although other conditions can conceivably cause drooling, the issues (above) are among the most serious. However, as previously noted, excessive saliva and drooling are often caused by poor sleep posture and lack of a proper swallowing trigger.

Relaxed muscles are often to blame for the lack of swallowing during a sleep state. While these are not major health concerns, the routine of waking up to a damp pillow is probably not ideal.

How Long Can HSV-1-Infected Drool Survive?

Medical research suggests that HSV-1 does not survive outside of the body for long. Many experts believe that the virus dies within 10 seconds under traditional environmental conditions. HSV-1 may have a longer life in warm and damp environments, but not for much longer.

HSV-1 infected saliva is unlikely to be a cause of transmission as there is a big difference between viral existence and transfer. Just touching the infected drool will not transfer the virus. The drool must have an avenue to enter the body before transmission has the chance to occur.

To summarize…

  • HSV-1 infected drool will not survive in the open air for more than approximately ten seconds. Once the drool leaves your mouth, it no longer has the support of a host such as the infected lip area, for example.
  • The virus can live for slightly longer in warm and damp conditions, but even that scenario will keep the virus alive for less than one minute.

Can Drooling Spread the Herpes Simplex Virus?

Although drool has an inherent difficulty sustaining life outside of the body, a form of self-contamination can occur. This is typically the result of touching the saliva inside of your mouth or manipulating an active cold sore with your fingers.

What transpires after such events have occurred is known as autoinoculation. Cold sores on the fingers (herpetic whitlow), near the eyes, cheeks, chin, and various other parts of the body is the result.

While this experience is rare due to the development of antibodies to combat such an issue, it can happen. It’s more likely if you are in the midst of a primary cold sore outbreak because your immune system is yet to know how to respond correctly.

While the act of drooling could be to blame, it’s the touching that is the primary issue. The importance of protecting yourself and others cannot be understated.

To recap…

  • While infected drool that escapes the mouth and dries poses virtually no threat of HSV-1 concerns, self-contamination from “wet” drool can potentially be an issue.
  • Known as autoinoculation, it is possible for your cold sore to infect other parts of your own body. An example would be touching contaminated saliva with your chin. The virus could then enter through a small opening due to the cracked skin or a flesh wound.
  • Never touch the inside of your mouth or manipulate your cold sore. Keep your fingers away from the problem area. Not only will this delay your healing but you could also self-contaminate other parts of the face and body.
  • Autoinoculation, while rare, can occur in those who are suffering from a primary cold sore infection. The development of antibodies, as time passes, will secure the rest of the body from the possibility of self-contamination. It should also be noted that a general lack of immunity is why many people experience their most aggressive outbreaks not long after becoming infected with HSV-1.

Should I Share Pillows and Bedding with My Partner?

While the odds of getting HSV-1 from the pillow of your partner is unlikely, the sharing of pillows and bedding is not wise. Just for general health purposes, you should always be as sanitary as possible. If your partner has an active cold sore, you should never use his or her pillow.

While actions such as these are not an indictment of your partner, sharing is not a healthy decision. You should always look out for yourself and trust that your partner is also looking out for you. Why take a risk when you can easily avoid it?

Look at the big picture. Most cold sores come and go within two weeks. If appropriately treated with a good cold sore medicine, they can be a thing of the past within days. Because outbreak periods are relatively short, there is no need to act irresponsibly and risk viral transmission.

To summarize…

  • It’s unwise to share a pillow or bedding if you or your partner has an active fever blister.
  • While the odds of viral transmission from sharing the same bed space is minimal, the act can potentially lead to a result of different health-related issues. Would you want to rest your mouth on the same pillow as a partner with highly contagious cold sores? Probably not.
  • Cold sores heal fast. They heal even quicker with proper treatment. What take even the slightest risk when you can avoid it all together? Your best course of action is to avoid sharing bedding until full healing has taken place.

Will drool spread my cold sores?

How Can Drooling Be Controlled or Prevented?

Because poor posture and the reflex swallowing mechanism is most often to blame for sleep time drooling, the issue can be fixed with relative ease. While the fix will not apply to every case, it will likely apply to most if there is not an underlying medical condition involved.

Some people are at a much higher risk of drooling during sleep than others. For example, those who mouth breath or sleep on their sides. Fortunately, these issues can be rectified.

There are a few ways you may be able to eliminate your drooling problem:

  • Sleep on your back
  • Use nasal strips (Keep nasal passage open)
  • Take allergy medication if needed

If you are concerned that your drooling could be a sign of a serious condition, talk with your physician. The last thing you want is a severe medical issue on your hands. It is undoubtedly better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.

Excessive Saliva and Cold Sore Concerns

Staying vigilant is important. While the odds of getting HSV-1 from drool are small, you still need to be careful. That includes adjusting your physical sleep position if required.

Cold sores occur because of a highly contagious virus, but there is no need to chase your tail in fear. There are established ways that people acquire HSV-1. Medical science has said as much. However, outside of those facts, most everything else is based on nearly impossible odds, unlikely scenarios, and general untruths.

Whether you have HSV-1 or are concerned about contracting herpes, the only tools you need are found in basic familiarity with the virus.