Can You Get Sexually Transmitted Diseases From Kissing?

Most STIs are spread through sexual contact, but a few can also be transmitted through kissing and oral fluids or sores. STIs that can be spread this way include herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

However, hepatitis A and B cannot be spread by kissing, nor can the parasitic STI trichomoniasis.

Herpes

Most people who have herpes have no symptoms and don’t know they are infected. HSV spreads most easily when a person comes in contact with an infected person’s saliva or the oozing from a sore. Sores may form on the genital area or, less often, in the mouth and rectum. These sores are painful and often look like blisters. They may ooze and take a week or more to heal. During an outbreak, people with herpes have flu-like symptoms and swollen glands. Taking medicine — acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir — can decrease how long symptoms last and how severe they are during an outbreak.

A few STDs can also be transmitted through kissing, although most are only spread by sexual activity. These include herpes simplex virus (type 1 or 2), cytomegalovirus and, in rare cases, syphilis.

The herpes viruses and a bacterium called hepatitis B spread through kissing when infected blood or saliva come into direct contact with other people’s bloodstreams or mucous membranes (which line the inside of many body cavities including the mouth and nose). They can also cause warts on the lips, anal or genital area. Some people with herpes have painless sores on the mouth or rectum, but others don’t have any. Some people who have herpes can become ill with a serious disease called tertiary syphilis if they don’t get treatment.

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Chlamydia

Many people are under the impression that chlamydia can be transmitted through kissing. However, medical evidence and research refute this idea. According to Planned Parenthood, chlamydia is primarily spread when an infected person’s genital fluids come into contact with the mucous membrane of their partner. This typically happens during unprotected sex or vaginal sex without the use of barrier protection. However, it is possible for chlamydia to spread through other sexual activities such as oral sex or anal sex. This can lead to sores on or around the genital area and painful discharge in the anus for women, and pain and redness with discharge in the eye (conjunctivitis) for men. It is also possible for chlamydia symptoms to show up in the throat, such as a sore throat or spots towards the back of the throat for both men and women.

However, it is not known to be common for chlamydia to be transmitted through mouth-to-penis or mouth-to-anus contact. This is why it’s important to keep routine STD testing, particularly for chlamydia, so that you can know whether or not you have the disease and notify all of your sexual partners in order to treat them. It’s also a good idea to avoid doucheing, as this can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in your vagina and increase your risk for infection.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, which is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, is most often spread through unprotected vaginal or oral sex. But it can also enter the body through a penis or the urethra, and it can infect the mouth, throat, eyes, or anus. Infections with gonorrhea can lead to sores on the vulva and genital area, painful or heavy periods, and infertility in women.

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Infections with gonorrhea are usually diagnosed through a physical exam, bloodwork, or urine and vaginal fluid tests. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. The best way to prevent gonorrhea is through abstinence from sex, or by using a condom when having anal or oral sex. However, even if you and your partner use a condom, close anal contact can still expose you to the bacteria, and sharing sex toys that haven’t been washed or protected with a condom can expose you as well.

Until recently, doctors believed that only STIs such as herpes could be spread by kissing with the tongue, a practice known as deep kissing or French kissing. But research out of Australia published in 2019 suggests that gonorrhea can also be transmitted through this type of kissing. But researchers aren’t sure how common this is, and say more study is needed to understand it better. The good news is that gonorrhea, like the other STIs on this list, can be treated easily with medication.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be spread during oral sex and intercourse. It is one of the most contagious STDs, and can also cause serious health complications later on if left untreated. The best way to prevent syphilis is to abstain from sexual activity and practice safe sex, using a latex condom in cases where you cannot avoid oral sex. If you do get syphilis, make sure you follow your full course of antibiotic treatment, even if symptoms go away.

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The first stage of syphilis is called primary syphilis, and is when you have one or more painless sores on the genital area or around your anus or rectum. These sores are called chancres and can appear anywhere between 10 and 90 days (3 weeks on average) after you’ve been infected. You are highly contagious during this time, and can pass it to your partner during oral, anal or vaginal sex.

It is also possible to catch syphilis from an infected mother during childbirth or through sexual contact with her during pregnancy. You can also get syphilis from kissing, or by touching an infected person’s sores. However, you cannot get syphilis by sharing toothbrushes or eating utensils, because the bacteria can’t survive on these objects. Likewise, you can’t get chlamydia or gonorrhea through casual contact, but only through sex with an infected person.

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