Kissing is generally a safe and common social behaviour, but it is possible to transmit certain infections through kissing, particularly if one of the individuals involved is carrying or infected with a contagious microorganism. While kissing is generally considered a low-risk sexual activity compared to anal, oral, and vaginal sex, certain sexually transmitted infections can be spread through kissing. It’s not just the lips; some STIs may also be passed on by kissing someone’s cheek, eyes, and head. However, mouth-to-mouth kissing can increase the risk of certain STIs and other infections.
Here is a list of some infections you can get from kissing.
Herpes: Herpes is caused by two viruses: Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2. HSV-1 causes cold sores on the gums, lips, mouth, or throat, while HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Both viruses can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact during anal, oral, or vaginal sex and kissing.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV): is another herpes virus that spreads through saliva while kissing. It can cause flu-related symptoms like fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, malaise, muscle aches, rash, sore throat, and swollen glands.
Streptococcus and Other Bacteria: Bacterial infections such as streptococcus (causing strep throat) can potentially be transmitted through kissing if one person has an active infection. Bacteria responsible for gum disease can also be spread through kissing.
Mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr Virus): Mono, also known as kissing disease, is an Epstein-Barr virus infection transmitted through saliva, like kissing or using the cooking utensils of a person with the virus. It causes symptoms like fatigue, fever, rash, and swollen glands.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): There are over 200 types of HPV, some spreading through deep tongue kissing and oral sex. Oral HPV often causes no symptoms, making it easy to pass from person to person and potentially causing cancer. The virus can cause painless growths or lumps around the vagina, penis, or anus, known as genital warts, which most people do not realise.
Gonorrhoea: Kissing might be a means of oral gonorrhoea transmission. Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection contracted through sexual contact that, if left untreated, can lead to infertility. Symptoms include painful urination and unusual vaginal or penile discharge. Women may feel discomfort in the lower abdomen, while men may suffer pain in the testicles. Gonorrhoea can occasionally go unnoticed. When an infection is present but not causing symptoms, regular screening can help find it.
Syphilis: Syphilis can be gotten from kissing an infected person. It is a skin disease that spreads through close physical contact with sores on the vagina, lips, anus, rectum, or mouth. Symptoms include skin rash, fever, firm, round, painless sores, and swollen lymph nodes.
Influenza (Flu): While kissing is not the primary mode of transmission for the flu, close contact and the exchange of respiratory droplets, including through kissing, can contribute to its spread during flu season.
Common Colds: Respiratory infections like the common cold can be transmitted through close contact and kissing when an infected person’s respiratory secretions come into contact with another person’s mouth or face.
You can avoid these infections by practising monogamy, using dental dams and going for regular medical checkups. It’s important to note that the risk of transmission depends on various factors, including the infectiousness of the person with the infection, the type of kissing (deep or light), and the overall health of the individuals involved. Practising good hygiene, such as not kissing when you have an active infection or taking precautions with known infectious partners, can help reduce the risk of transmission. Additionally, some infections may be prevented or mitigated through vaccination, like the flu or HPV (human papillomavirus), which can also be transmitted through kissing and is a risk factor for certain cancers.