Can kissing make you sick

The Germy Truth About Kissing

The human mouth contains more bacteria than there are people on the planet (that’s close to 7 billion). Talk about a mouthful! But should the threat of germs stop you from smooching? Not necessarily.

Read on for the good, the bad, and the ugly of kissing germs.

The Good

Sure, mouth germs may sound like a turnoff, but keep it in perspective. Germs exist throughout our bodies, not to mention all over the environment around us. And germs aren’t all bad.

“A good proportion of the body is full of germs, and we have a symbiotic relationship with most of them,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an instructor in the division of infectious diseases and an associate in the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Bacteria help metabolize certain substances in the mouth, for example. In other organ systems, bacteria are responsible for breaking down food and synthesizing vitamins, among many other functions.”

Thanks to swapping those germs, kissing happens to offer some health benefits. The flow of saliva can make for healthier teeth and gums, and exposure to someone else’s germs actually strengthens the immune system.

On the emotional front, the plus side of kissing ranges from relationship bonding to stress reduction as the brain releases neurotransmitters. Finally, kissing burns calories — the more intense the make-out session, the better.

The Bad

While the health benefits of locking lips are sound, kissing can still facilitate the transfer of not-so-nice germs. There’s the chance that kissing someone who’s sick will make you sick, too.

Illnesses and bacteria are spread several ways — from inhaling infected droplets in the air after a sick person coughs or sneezes to touching a contaminated surface then touching your eyes or nose and, yes, kissing.

It doesn’t help that one of the biggest days of the year for kissing falls right in the middle of cold and flu season. “Mid-February is usually the peak season for infectious diseases, such as the seasonal and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, colds and coughs,” Jorge Parada, MD, medical director, infectious disease at Loyola University Health System said in a release.

How do you think mononucleosis, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, got its moniker? It’s called “the kissing disease” for the way it’s so easily spread. Other consequences of kissing that could land you at the doctor’s office include strep throat, mumps, measles, and pertussis, better known as whopping cough.

The Ugly

A case of the sniffles isn’t the worst thing you can catch from locking lips. Read up on the more serious, and visible, viruses.

  • Herpes. This family of viruses includes everything from varicella zoster, which causes chickenpox, to the energy-zapping Epstein-Barr virus to cold sores (aka herpes simplex).
  • Hepatitis B. Although it’s more contagious with blood exposure, hepatitis B can also be passed through saliva, especially when open mouth sores are involved.
  • Warts. Mouth warts do exist, and they’re contagious through kissing.

Bottom line: Keep on kissing! There’s no need to skip a good smooch for fear of germs, says Dr. Adalja, unless the person you want to kiss is clearly ill. In which case, the coughing and sniffles will have hopefully turned you off before you move in too close. If you’re the one who’s feeling sick, spread love by not spreading your germs.

If you are among the thousands of British people to have called in sick from work this week with a cold (you probably called it flu – it sounds so much more convincing that way, doesn’t it?), you may have tried a range of remedies, bought or home-made. Chances are none of them will have cured you. You may be kicking yourself for not wrapping up warmly enough. Or, more likely still, you are kicking someone you know for infecting you. There, too, you could be mistaken. We all think we understand the common cold. Yet few of us have a clue about how we get it or what to do to shake it off.

Take snogging. You would have thought that French kissing a snotty lover was a bad idea on many levels. But contrary to widespread belief, it is very hard to catch a cold by exchanging saliva. In 1984, researchers had the unenviable job of observing hundreds of students snogging. Kissing, they concluded, resulted in no transmission of the cold virus. “The virus travels in the mucus from the respiratory system,” explains Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University. “Unless you have a bad cough, and some of the respiratory mucus has made its way into your saliva, the cold virus will not be transmitted by kissing.”

Most of us think colds are highly contagious. Certainly, most adults get two to five colds a year (schoolchildren can catch double this number). But scientists say colds are not, in fact, terribly easy to pass on. Under laboratory conditions, when healthy volunteers are kept with those suffering colds, it is remarkably difficult to spread the infection. This is because the mucus from the respiratory tract of someone infected has to get directly into your respiratory tract.

To do this, an infected person must either sneeeze or cough near you so you inhale their infected droplets, or touch a surface, allowing you pick the virus up on your fingers (a cold virus can live on a doorknob for hours). You then rub your eyes or touch your nose (your eye drains into your nose), depositing the virus in your own respiratory tract.

Since you touch surfaces handled by thousands of individuals every day (just think of the handrail on an escalator) and breathe in the droplets of a variety of sneezing strangers, it would be harsh to blame your loved ones for every sniffle you develop. Indeed, for every symptomatic individual, there are two or three infectious people touching things with virus-infected fingers. Handwashing may reduce infection rates, but, as Eccles admits, “You’d have to wear a space mask to rule it out entirely.”

Since so much is known about cold viruses, it seems amazing that no pharmaceutical company has come up with the cure that would make its fortune. There are a couple of flu “antiviral” injections in use which, if administered within the first 24 to 48 hours of illness, are said to shorten some flu bouts by a day or so. But these will not touch a cold.

Cold viruses, while they manifest many “flu-like symptoms” (fever, runny nose, cough), are different from flu viruses. Cold symptoms come from 200 different viruses (though up to half of all colds are the fault of one culprit, the “rhinovirus”). To kill a cold you would have to kill the specific cold virus that has seized you. One American company did recently invent a vaccination against the rhinovirus but, says Eccles, “It had to be taken off the market because women taking it kept getting pregnant” – the injection apparently interfered with the contraceptive pill.

So do we just have to accept colds as inevitable? In recent years the myth that you catch a cold by getting chilly seemed to have been debunked. But now there is a backlash that grannies everywhere will welcome: “If you expose the skin to a cold stimulus, this constricts your blood vessels,” says Eccles. “Since your immune system resides in your blood, this constriction can restrict the activity of your white blood cells” – thereby inhibiting your ability to fight off a cold virus.

Indeed, he says, it may be that we get more colds in winter not just because we are crowded into overheated spaces, but because our noses are cold (and are therefore more vulnerable to flying viruses).

Proactive types swear by Echinacea or vitamin C to avoid a cold. The clinical evidence on Echinacea is inconclusive (a 2003 study found no effect). Vitamin C, meanwhile, has no proven effect in preventing a cold, but, says Eccles, “it may reduce the severity and duration of one because it is an antioxidant”. Antioxidants boost your immune system, and, as Eccles puts it, “Your immune system is the cure for the cold: in seven to 10 days, your immune system will overcome the virus.” Coughing, though, can last 10 weeks. Similarly, other foods such as garlic – another clinical “grey area” – peppers and onions have “antiviral properties” that may help fight the virus (possibly explaining the clinically unsubstantiated adage, “feed a cold and starve a fever”).

Indeed, “Any hot and tasty food or drink that promotes mucus is a good idea,” says Eccles. “Mucus secretion in the airways is a beneficial symptom – it washes out the virus.” Eccles recommends a good curry.

Over-the-counter cold treatments might not be a waste of money either. Lemsip is mucus-producing; for a cheaper route, drink hot honey and lemon and take paracetamol for your headache. Nasal congestion, caused by swelling of the large veins in the lining of the nose, often stops you sleeping, so decongestant sprays and other nighttime remedies can help you fight a cold, says Eccles, because they promote sleep, which restores your busy immune system.

Finally, help doesn’t have to be hi-tech: a hot toddy, while it won’t prevent a cold, is certainly medicinal. “One or two units of alcohol in a hot toddy can be a great sedative,” says Eccles. Doctor’s orders, then.

Nine diseases you can get from kissing

Perhaps one of the most universal signs of affection, kissing exists in nearly every culture. The act of kissing can range from a quick peck to a long, intimate smooch.

Kissing on the lips, though, is usually reserved for more intimate relationships — and it’s no wonder why.

An intimate 10-second kiss can transfer over 80 million bacteria. Though this might help some long-term couples by diversifying their oral bacteria (and thus boosting their resistance to other microorganisms), exchanging saliva can often transfer illnesses.

Unfortunately, no one is exempt from the disease-spreading dangers of kissing. Though people in long-term relationships may fare slightly better, anyone can get sick this way.

HealthGrove used data from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to find nine diseases that are transmitted through saliva.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, you might want to be careful who you kiss.

9. Mononucleosis:

This disease, usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), spreads through saliva and is often referred to as “mono” or “the kissing disease.” Symptoms are very similar to those of the flu and include a fever, sore throat, fatigue, muscle weakness and swollen lymph glands.

The infection and related symptoms usually last anywhere from one to two months. Young people between the ages of 15 and 30 and those who regularly come into contact with a lot of people are the most at risk. While no treatment for mononucleosis exists, resting, staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter pain medications often help.

8. Cytomegalovirus:

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus in the herpes family. This disease spreads through saliva, as well as through blood, urine, semen and breast milk. Like all herpes viruses, CMV can remain dormant in the body for long periods of time, especially if you’re healthy.

Though this virus can infect almost anyone, symptoms usually appear in those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, muscle aches and, in more serious cases, pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures and visual impairment. While there’s no cure for CMV, treatment for the virus generally isn’t needed in healthy children and adults.

7. Gum Disease:

Bacteria, mucus and other particles constantly live in our mouths and can build up to form plaque. Brushing and flossing helps get rid of plaque, though if not cleaned thoroughly, plaque can build up under the gum line and cause gum disease.

Though gum disease (also known as periodontitis and gingivitis) does not spread through kissing, the bad bacteria that cause it can. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is your best defense.

6. Herpes:

Oral herpes is most commonly referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters.” It’s transmitted through direct contact between an infected area and broken skin or a mucous membrane. More than 50 percent of the U.S. adult population has oral herpes, but symptoms aren’t always visible.

Unfortunately, once you contract the virus, it stays with you forever. Additionally, oral herpes, caused by the herpes simplex type 1 strain, can cause genital herpes. Experts estimate that over 20 percent of new genital herpes cases are caused by herpes simplex type 1 transmitted through oral sex.

Outbreaks of oral herpes, however, are usually few and far between. During an outbreak, symptoms usually last between 8-10 days on average and the cold sores heal on their own.

5. Meningitis:

Many types of viruses can cause viral meningitis, which is serious but less severe than bacterial meningitis. This disease can be spread from one person to another via respiratory secretions.

Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. Though there are no medications for viral meningitis, people with healthy immune systems usually get better on their own.

4. Polio:

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that primarily affects young children. The virus spreads from oral contact or through contaminated food and water. Once in the intestine, it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Symptoms include fever, limb pain, fatigue, headache and stiffness in the neck. While there is no cure for polio, it has been largely eradicated in the U.S. and is a routine immunization given at childhood.

3. Mumps:

Mumps is a viral infection that affects the salivary glands, causing them to swell. It usually spreads via airborne droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person. Easily preventable by vaccine, this disease is no longer as common as it once was, though outbreaks in unvaccinated groups still sporadically occur.

Symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. Recovering from mumps takes about two weeks, and treatment usually focuses on relieving the symptoms.

2. Rubella:

Also known as the German measles, rubella is a contagious disease caused by a virus transmitted through an infected person’s sneeze or cough.

Symptoms only show up in half of people who get rubella and are usually mild. They include a fever and rash and clear up in two to three days. The rubella vaccine can prevent this disease.

1. Influenza:

Influenza is spread from person to person, usually via droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. People can infect others with the flu virus one day before they have symptoms and up seven days after becoming sick.

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. Most people recover on their own in less than two weeks. The flu is a highly seasonal disease that can often be prevented by getting an annual flu vaccine.

This article was contributed to by Sabrina Perry, Associated Editor at Graphiq, Inc.

You CAN’T catch a cold by kissing and you’re more likely to get ill by holding someone’s hand


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SNOGGING could spread drug resistant gonorrhoea, a new study warns.

Experts previously thought the clap was spread through unprotected sex and not kissing.

1 New findings show gonorrhoea can be caught by kissing your partner – and it infects your throatCredit: Getty – Contributor

But researchers now say the bacteria can also be passed on in saliva.

It means people who engage in deep tongue kissing – or “French kissing” – are at risk.

Signs you could have throat gonorrhoea include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, though in many cases it causes no symptoms.

Trials are underway to see if gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash could keep infections at bay.

Hard to swallow

Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia.

It mostly infects the privates and bottom and is less common in the throat and eyes.

Boffins at Monash University, in Australia, quizzed 3,091 people on their sex lives.

Those who had kissed and had sex with at least four people were 81 per cent more likely to get throat, or oropharyngeal, gonorrhoea.

And those who had kissed at least four people were 46 per cent more likely to get it than those with one or no partners.

Kiss of death

Study leader Dr Eric Chow said: “A number of pieces of evidence suggest that transmission from the oropharynx (part of the throat) may be more common than previously thought.

“N. gonorrhoeae can be cultured from saliva, suggesting that the exchange of saliva between individuals may potentially transmit gonorrhoea.”

He added: “Antiseptic mouthwash, if shown to be effective against oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, could provide a non-condom and non-antibiotic-based intervention for gonorrhoea control.

“This is particularly relevant in the context of recent reports of highly-resistant N. gonorrhoeae and known challenges associated with the antimicrobial treatment of oropharyngeal gonorrhoea.”

Researchers only studied gay men but say the results are also likely to affect kissing heterosexuals.

NHS says kissing isn’t a risk

The NHS website says gonorrhoea is easily passed between people through unprotected sex and sharing sex toys.

It warns the bacteria are mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid and adds: “Gonorrhoea is not spread by kissing.”

It also says the infection cannot be spread through hugging, swimming pools, toilet seats, or sharing baths, towels, cups, plates or cutlery.


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Typical symptoms include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating and bleeding between periods.

But one in ten infected men and almost half of infected women do not experience any symptoms.

The new findings are published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Gemma Collins kisses and makes-up with boyfriend James Argent on the dance floor after week-long split

What Causes My Sore Throat?

The most common reason you get a sore throat is because of a cold or flu. It may be just one of several side problems you get. Cold symptoms tend to develop slowly, but a flu tends to hit you quickly.

If you are coughing, your voice is hoarse, or you have a runny nose, a cold is the most likely culprit. The common cold is less harmful than a flu, which attacks your nose, throat, and lungs. And you may get more intense symptoms, including fever, body aches, and headaches.

Some other causes of sore throat may include:

Pollution: Smoking or chemicals inside the home can cause a sore throat. Bad air pollution can also irritate it.

Overuse: Yelling or speaking for a long time can strain throat muscles.

Allergies: You could react to things such as mold, dust, pollen, and pet dander (tiny pieces of skin shed by animals).

Strep throat: The pain of this can be so strong that it may hurt a lot when you swallow. You may also see a white or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils, which are those two clumps of tissue at the back of the throat.

You should see your doctor if you think you have strep. She can swab your throat and run a test to find out if you really have it. You’re likely to be prescribed antibiotics, a type of medicine that kills bacteria, if you do.

Tonsillitis: Inflamed tonsils can also make your throat sore and you might have a hard time swallowing.

Mononucleosis: A virus causes mono, and it’s spread through saliva. That’s why it’s often called “the kissing disease.” Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, and swelling in your tonsils, neck, or armpits.


Happy International Kissing Day – a day to celebrate the many health benefits of practising the fine art of the smooch!

But when it comes to kissing, choose carefully, because it turns out you can catch more than just feelings! Whilst kissing provides us with many health benefits, it can also transmit germs (bacteria and viruses) which can lead to disease. Without trying to ruin the mood, our private doctors at London Doctors Clinic are here to provide a guide to all the germs which can potentially be transmitted by kissing!

Kissing: How Are Germs Spread?

Some illnesses spread more easily than others, but the most common way of catching something from kissing is actually before your lips even make contact! When someone else is infected, they can either breathe out infected particles into the air (airborne spread), or they can cough or sneeze droplets to about a metre away from them (droplet spread).

If you breathe in the infected material, or come into contact with it and then touch your nose or your mouth, you could get infected. You can also catch diseases during kissing, from bacteria and viruses in saliva or blood (contact spread).

Conditions Caught From Kissing

Several viruses make up the herpes virus family. These include Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus and varicella-zoster virus (causes chicken pox). These viruses can be spread during kissing.

2. Glandular Fever/ Mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus)

Mononucleosis, caused by Epstein-Barr virus, is infamously known as ‘kissing disease’ because of how well it spreads through virus-containing saliva.

Despite its endearing name, the disease is rather unpleasant, causing intense fatigue, flu like symptoms including a sore throat, fever, weakness and swollen lymph glands.

It is most common in young people between 15 to 30 years of age and those who spend lots of time in close contact with other people. The disease and its symptoms often last between one or two months, and there is no specific treatment other than taking bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, eating well and taking over the counter medication to help with symptoms.

3. Cold Sores (Herpes-Simplex Virus)

Cold sores, often known as ‘fever blisters’ are usually caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), and are transmitted when an infected cold sore directly contacts a mucous membrane, or broken skin. It is estimated that over half of adults in the UK are infected with HSV1.

Another strain of HSV (HSV2) is usually associated with genital herpes (however, HSV1 probably causes 1 in 5 cases of genital herpes by oral sex).

Although cold sores are most infectious when open and leaking fluid, they can be infectious before symptoms even start and can even be spread by a quick peck. And whilst your make-out buddy might not, this virus unfortunately stays with you for life!

But it’s not all bad news – it usually only perks up every once in a while, often when your immune system is down. When the virus perks up, symptoms usually last ten days and involve burning, itching or tingling, sometimes accompanied by a sore throat, swollen glands or fever, followed by a cold sore which heals on its own. Some medications can speed up symptom resolution.

4. Warts (Human Papilloma Virus, HPV)

Warts are more likely to be spread during kissing if there is a break in the skin. That said, oral warts are pretty rare, and would take a fair amount of contact to transmit!

5. Respiratory Viruses

These include the common cold, influenza, mumps and many more and are usually spread by droplets. You’re likely to catch these before actually locking lips, but when getting close. If your kissing conquest has got the sniffles, it’s best to steer clear until the cold or flu has passed!

If your kissing conquest has got the sniffles, steer clear until the cold or flu has passed!

6. Influenza

Flu can be spread from a day before, up until seven days after symptoms start. It causes a fever, cough, weakness, fatigue, body aches and a sore throat. Usually people get better in under two weeks, although preventing yourself from catching the condition is always going to be the preferable option!

7. Tooth Decay & Gum Disease

When kissing, you don’t just share saliva – you also share the flora of bacteria, viruses and mucus that live in your mouth!

Gum disease itself cannot be spread by kissing, but the ‘bad’ bacteria that cause it definitely can be – this is more likely to happen when your immune system of your mouth is compromised. These germs build up and form plaque, which can cause cavities or gum disease (gingivitis) when it builds up under your gum line.

The spread of ‘bad bacteria’ is more likely to occur if the natural immune system for your mouth is compromised. Your best bet at preventing this is to maintain good oral hygiene, by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing before bed. This will prevent the bacteria from being able to grow in your mouth.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing before bed is important in preventing bacteria growth in your mouth

8. Meningitis

Both viruses and bacteria can cause meningitis (an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord). Close contact with someone with viral meningitis, which spreads by respiratory secretions, could result in you getting the virus too, although it rarely turns into meningitis.

Viral meningitis is less severe than bacterial meningitis and usually people recover without medication. Bacterial meningitis, however is spread by close contact (such as kissing) – so if someone you’ve been in close contact with has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, it might be worth you seeing a doctor too, to enquire as to whether you should take any medicines to reduce your risk of developing meningitis.

Symptoms of meningitis include a fever, headache, stiff neck, and nausea and vomiting. It is a serious condition for which immediate medical help should be sought.

9. Syphillis

Although most commonly transmitted by sex, syphilis can also be spread by kissing. This is because syphilis can cause round, open and infectious sores in the mouth. Syphilis can be treated by doctor-prescribed antibiotics.

Other STIs such as HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea are less likely to be spread by kissing (unless one of you have a cut or sore in your mouth). If you’re worried about sexual health, find out more information here.

However, It’s Not All Doom And Gloom…

Before you decide to give up kissing for life, remember to put things into perspective. There are valuable health benefits to passionate kissing, including:

  • Stress reduction
  • Emotional bonding
  • Metabolic boost

As well as this, most kisses won’t cause disease – realistically, your chance of catching one of the above-mentioned nasties is pretty small!

Preventing The Transmission of Kissing-Conditions!

  1. Try not to kiss someone if you or they are sick
  2. Avoid kissing someone when they have a cold sore, wart or ulcer in or around their mouth
  3. Brush and floss your teeth well!

So, enjoy International Kissing Day! But remember, the next time you borrow a kiss, take a moment to think – because you could be left with something you can’t return! Should you happen to notice any unusual symptoms after locking lips, our private GPs are happy to help! For those feeling shy or embarrassed, we can assure you that our doctors will handle your issue with ultimate sensitivity and discretion. Simply book an appointment at your closest doctors surgery – we now have 15 located across London, so should never be too far away when you need to find a “clinic near me”.

By Ayala Shirazi

If life were fair, it would be impossible to catch anything remotely bad from a kiss. But in addition to things like the common cold and the flu (seriously, get vaccinated, people), it is actually possible to contract various illnesses from a make-out session. That includes a couple of sexually transmitted ones. Buzz. Kill.

Here, doctors explain potential infections you can get from kissing, along with exactly what you need to know to stay as safe as possible.

1. Herpes

Herpes may be incurable, but it doesn’t make you a pariah. In fact, it kind of makes you normal. Around two-thirds of the world’s population under the age of 50 has herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), which is known as the oral kind of herpes, according to the World Health Organization. And around one in every six Americans under the age of 50 has herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2), what’s known as the genital kind of herpes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The thing about HSV-1 is that it sometimes creates cold sores in and around the mouth. “If you’re kissing someone with lesions in their mouth, mucous membranes make herpes easy to transmit,” Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn, tells SELF. So, if someone you’re kissing has HSV-1, they could give you the virus (even if they aren’t currently experiencing an outbreak, a phenomenon known as ‘asymptomatic shedding’ means they can still transmit it, says Abdur-Rahman). And if they go down on you, they could transmit the virus to your genitals.

If you or your partner has cold sores, over-the-counter medications like Abreva can shorten the outbreak. There are also antiviral medications like Valtrex that people can take on a regular basis to prevent outbreaks from occurring.

2. Syphilis

“Syphilis is a highly infectious condition, and one of its hallmarks is the development of sores in the mouth,” board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D., tells SELF. The sores, which are usually round and open, “combine to make syphilis transmissible through kissing,” says Pizarro. Kissing isn’t the most common way to transmit syphilis—oral, anal, and vaginal sex still rank higher. But syphilis rates are currently on the rise, according to the CDC, so it’s good information to have. If you or your partner has syphilis-related sores in your mouth, they (and the virus itself) should clear up with the help of doctor-prescribed antibiotics.

So, what about other STIs? While the chances of passing infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV through saliva aren’t usually worth worrying about, that changes if one of you has a cut or sore in your mouth. “Any time there’s an open sore and/or blood present, theoretically an infection could be transmitted orally,” says Pizarro.

3. Meningitis

Some meningitis is caused by bacteria while other cases come about because of viruses (including the herpes virus), Chris Carpenter, M.D., section head of Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, tells SELF. Close contact with a person who has viral meningitis can result in you getting the virus, but it’s unlikely to actually turn into meningitis, according to the CDC.

Bacterial meningitis is usually the kind associated with outbreaks because the bacteria can be spread through close contact, including kissing, but unlike with the viral variety, the bacteria is more likely to cause meningitis in the host, says Carpenter. Symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, and headache, according to the CDC. “If we are aware of an outbreak, we will give people who have had close contact with the antibiotics to protect them,” says Carpenter.

4. Infectious mononucleosis

Ah, the so-called “kissing disease”! It definitely deserves its nickname, because mono is caused by a virus that is easily transmitted through kissing, according to Mayo Clinic. One of its trademark signs is intense fatigue, although others include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. According to Mayo Clinic, “treatment mainly involves bed rest, good nutrition and drinking plenty of fluids,” so that’s basically the only potential benefit of getting mono.

5. Gingivitis

Kissing doesn’t just involve swapping spit—although, how unsexy does that sound when you’re not actually doing it?—it also includes exchanging bacteria with the other person. Depending on both of your oral healthcare habits, that bacteria can cause gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease. (It can also cause cavities.) “We each have our own natural bacterial flora in our oral environments. When someone has poor hygiene, certain bacteria in and around the gum tissue can become overwhelming,” Tim Pruett, D.M.D., founder of Flossolution, tells SELF.

According to Dr. Barnett, the cold virus is found in the mucus that travels through your respiratory system and is most commonly spread by coughing and sneezing. If you are severely ill with a cold, it is a possibility that some germs can stay within your saliva and might be spread by kissing or sharing a glass. The risk also is contingent on the type of kiss you are giving. If it is just a simple dry peck on the cheek, the risk of contracting the virus is very low.

However, if you decide to be romantic while you’re sickly and exchange body fluids, then there is a greater possibility of passing the virus along. You may want to avoid super-close snuggling—along with these 14 other risky germ-spreading behaviors—since some viruses are airborne.

To prevent passing along a cold, cover your mouth when you cough, preferably with your elbow or a tissue. “Your hands and fingers can more easily pass viruses if you cough or sneeze into them,” says Barnett. You should also wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Wash them for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing or hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end two times through. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Want to avoid catching a cold virus in the first place? Wash your hands regularly and disinfect surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, toys, and remote controls. Also try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. A virus can enter your body this way and make you sick. To ramp up your defense even more and stay healthy all season long, consider these 50 ways to avoid catching a cold this season.

If you wind up coming down with cold symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, and cough, follow expert advice to get well soon. Try these 8 things doctors and nurses do to stop a cold in its tracks.

How kissing affects your mouth’s health (good and bad)

We all do it: Smooching, pecking, snogging, necking.

No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you call it — kissing is a form of affection shared by people around the world. For many people, it’s naturally ingrained in us to want to kiss the ones we love.

Why do we do it? And what are the impacts of all this saliva-swapping on our oral health?

Why do humans lock lips?

There’s a pretty simple reason for why we love to kiss: It just plain feels good. That’s because your lips are filled with tons of little nerve endings that get fired up when they touch something else.

But there’s some debate around exactly why we do it. Scientists have found that kissing is not universal — but it’s close. An estimated 90% of people give a little peck here and there. And for many people, kissing isn’t actually a romantic activity. In one smooching study, only 46% of the cultures surveyed kiss with sexual intentions.

People kiss as a greeting, a farewell, and a show of affection for family, friends, and significant others. No matter who you’re kissing, there’s a strong chance you care about them, so don’t scare them off with a dirty mouth!

The best way to ensure your oral health stays top-notch? Brush up on your oral hygiene facts, both the good and the not-so good ways that kissing impacts your mouth’s health. With these smarts, you can impress the dentist, keep your pearly whites, and maybe even lock in that second date.

The downsides of kissing

It’s hard to believe that an activity that feels so good could have a dark side. But there are some risks — however minor and totally worth it — to locking lips.

1. Kisses can come with cavities

Kissing someone who doesn’t keep up with their oral hygiene can mean more than a whiff of bad breath. When you kiss, you’re swapping saliva. Bacteria that feed off sugar and carbs build a nice little home in your mouth, especially if you nosh on a lot of sugary foods. That bacteria releases acid, which causes tooth decay and cavities. That means when you give your partner a big ol’ kiss, you’re passing some tooth-decaying bacteria their way too.

But don’t worry, for someone who brushes their teeth regularly, the amount of bacteria passed in a smooch is hardly enough to warrant a filling on your next trip to the dentist.

2. Smooch babies on the forehead

Ever seen a mom get picky about who touches her baby? She’s got a good point, especially if people are angling to kiss her baby. Bacteria and viruses can spread easily between anyone, but young babies have little immunity, and are more likely to get infected when their teeth are just coming in. So next time you lean in to give your little niece a peck, make sure it’s not on the lips.

3. Viruses, viruses, viruses

We’ve all heard about mono, aka “the kissing disease,” spreading like wildfire after a high school dance. But the funny thing is, your saliva is actually armed with antibodies and enzymes that fight all the bad stuff that gets in your mouth.

Of course, kissing someone who’s got a cold and is contagious can increase your likelihood of getting sick too. But it’s mucus that carries the cold, not saliva. So if you catch a cold from a kiss, there’s a good chance it was a bit of a mucusy makeout session. (Uhm. Gross.) When viruses spread, the germs have already worked their way past your saliva and into other parts of your body, like your lungs, nose, and throat.

4. Disease and the dreaded cold sore

How risky is it really to kiss someone with a history of being infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV)? Should you be worried? Probably not. At least 50% of Americans have oral herpes, and more than 90% of people who have it don’t know it. While you can spread it with no signs of a sore during “asymptomatic shedding,” the most common way for it to spread is through skin-to-skin contact with an open sore, which you can most definitely see.

What about other scary mouth problems, like gum disease? Research shows that periodontal disease is caused by inflammation and bacteria under your gums, so technically, you’re not going to catch full-blown gum disease from someone. You will, however, get a mouthful of that gum-disease-causing bacteria.

All these not-so-clean facts about kissing got you thinking twice about your next tongue wrestling match? Have no fear — as it turns out, there are also plenty of dentist-approved reasons to makeout ’til dawn.

The upsides of puckering up

1. More diverse bacteria makes a happy mouth (and a happy gut)

Not all bacteria is bad bacteria. In fact, we need bacteria a plenty for proper gut health, which impacts our bodies from head to toe. When it comes to oral health, kissing helps replenish your stores of healthy bacteria by introducing your microbiome to bacteria you didn’t have before. And, studies show that 45% of the bacteria in your gut are the same as the ones in your mouth.

2. Boost your immune system

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? When it comes to building your oral microbiome, this is pretty true. You can transfer 80 million new little bacteria to someone in a 10 second kiss. Since your saliva is your mouth’s defense system, most often this doesn’t make you sick. It just makes you stronger.

3. Kissing builds more saliva

Saliva is made of proteins and enzymes that wash away bits of food and bacteria from that burger you ate for lunch, and it helps neutralize acids from foods like oranges or lemons. When you kiss someone, you produce more saliva, so you’re doing great things for your mouth.


The bottom line: kissing is good for you. It strengthens personal bonds and connects people. Just don’t forget to follow best practices to keep your teeth healthy. Your dentist will appreciate it — and the person you’re smoochin’ will too. Woven with hundreds of grime-grabbing fibers, Cocofloss erases sour, stinky plaque to leave your mouth more kissable than ever.

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