Contagious kisses


  • Ask Dr G Premium
  • Sunday, 09 Aug 2015

Of course, a human kiss is not as lethal as a bite, but the saliva exchange through a kiss can still be a source of oral transmission of a pathogen.

In fact, the surfaces of the respiratory tract such as nose and throat are continuous with the oral cavity; therefore the microbes that are found in the in the respiratory tract, such as cold and flu, can also be transmissible through the direct contact or exchange of saliva through kisses.

Perhaps the most notable illness that is contagious through kissing is Infectious Mononucleosis, or the so-called “Kissing Disease”. 

This is a widespread infection also known as glandular fever caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Most people are exposed to the disease as children or adolescents, resulting in flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat and fatigue, which are generally self-limiting.

Ninety percent of adults are likely to have acquired the immunity against the virus by the age of forty.

Herpes viruses are also known to be transmissible through kissing. The virus groups include varicella zoster (Commonly known as chicken pox) and Herpes Simplex (also called the cold sores in the mouth).

These viruses are shed from the site of blisters even when they have healed; therefore the transmission the infection is common through kissing.

In children and young adults, the hand, foot and mouth disease are also notoriously infectious through the open sores of the mouth. Although such contagions by Coxsackie virus is more known in kids in kindergartens and day cares centers, the oral transmissions by young adults through kissing are also well documented.

The transmission of serious infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B are most feared, but usually requires higher level of blood or bodily fluid transfer.

Although infections can occur when infected blood come into contact with bleeding mucous membrane, kissing is usually considered safe and the transmission rates of such infections are generally considered negligible.

The saliva generally has a natural cleansing role and defense against pathogens. 

Good oral hygiene provides antibodies and good bacteria to prevent the adherence and growth of the bad bacteria. The spread of infectious microbes through the saliva occurs when the general resistance of the mouth is reduced with gum infections or vitamin C deficiency.

People who are dehydrated also have less salivary flow and increase the bacterial contents in the mouth by four folds. I guess it may be a good idea to inspect the oral hygiene and hydration of your opponent before falling madly in love!

Ingrid Bergman was once quoted saying: “A kiss is a secret told to the mouth instead of ear; kisses are messengers of love and tenderness”.

I guess Dr. G’s advice is “A kiss can be a path to a dark secrets of a man told through the saliva, knowing your man before kissing him may avoid the messengers of infections and heartaches.”

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