Contagious kisses


  • Ask Dr G
  • Sunday, 09 Aug 2015

A Kiss, according to Oxford Dictionary is defined as “a touch or caress with the lips as a sign of love, sexual desire or greeting”.

There is something very sensual and seductive about this act of affection, which is completely hypnotic and captivating, especially portrayed in an old black and white movie.

I am completely fascinated, enthralled and mesmerized by the charms of the old black and white movies.

The kissing scenes are somehow so different from the Hollywood films these days. The lingering kisses on the silver screen those days are somewhat more luring and seductive for the beguiled audience.

One of my favorite actresses, Ingrid Bergman, who won three Academy Awards and four Golden Globe, is ranked the fourth greatest female star of American cinema.

She starred alongside Cary Grant in the Hitchcock’s thriller, Noctorius, and perhaps best remembered for her role as Lisa Lund in 1942’s Casablanca.

This famous passionate kissing Diva once said: “A Kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”

Another Hollywood silver screen actress and sex symbol, Mae West, also said: “A man’s kiss is his signature”.

Is it at all possible, a man’s kiss is also the signature of his contagious past?

Can this simple caress of the lips, as the sign of passion and affection, be completely risk-free? Is there such a thing as a “kiss of death”?

Today, we explore the fear of a female reader, wondering how contagious can a kiss be.



Dear Dr. G,

I am Jane and I love to read your weekly column. I understand most of your readers are men, but I just have questions I hope you can help me with.

I am 21 year-old and have recently met a nice guy online. We got along very well and finally we met up on our first date. I must say, the date went well and we got on really well.

We even had a nice passionate kiss on the first date. The problem is, I started getting sore throat and noticing ulcers in my mouth three days after the kiss. The ulcers are quite painful and seem to be getting worse.

Of course, I am worried I may have contracted something from the kiss.

Can you please tell me what is the possibility of contracting any infection by kissing? Is there even a chance of getting HIV, Syphilis or even Herpes? You can imagine how stressful it is for me now. Not even sure whether I should continue with more dates.

Look forward to your response.

Regards,

Jane


The American Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) reported that human bites could be as dangerous as dog bites as it contains as many bacteria in the saliva. 

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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