Though studies say that as many as 80 million bacteria and who knows what viruses are transferred during a 10-second kiss, HIV and Zika are not likely to be among them.
That doesn’t mean you’re totally safe when puckering up. Read on for some unpleasant consequences of the intimate bliss that is a kiss.
1. Any respiratory virus — such as a cold, the flu, mumps and German measles — could certainly be spread by kissing. But you’re more likely to get infected way before you lock lips.
You can obtain these viruses, called contact diseases, by being within three to six feet of a person who is sneezing or coughing, or by touching something they have touched and then bringing your fingers to your nose or mouth. That’s why vaccinations — and lots of handwashing — are your best bet to avoid these extremely contagious diseases.
2. Called the “kissing disease,” mononucleosis is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and comes with extreme fatigue and flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, muscle weakness and swollen lymph glands. Ages 15 to 30 are most susceptible to mono, as well as those who spend a lot of time in close contact with others, like high school and college students and members of sports teams.
There’s no treatment for mononucleosis, so staying rested and hydrated and taking over-the-counter pain meds can help you survive the one- to two-month infection.
3. Cold sores or fever blisters are actually the result of the herpes simplex virus. The Centers for Disease Control says that at least half of all Americans are infected with herpes simplex, most of us by the age of 20. Just a quick smooch can give this to your partner or even your children. All they have to do is come into contact with the virus while it’s shedding, which can happen even before the telltale blister begins to form. Warning symptoms are mild: an itching, burning or tingling in the area, along with a possible sore throat, fever or swollen glands.
4. Cytomegalovirus is another not-so-well-known member of the herpes family that can be spread by kissing. A majority of us have antibodies in our systems against this virus but never knew we were infected. That’s because healthy adults and children often have no signs or symptoms. Spread through saliva, blood, urine, semen and breast milk, Cytomegalovirus can become a problem if you have a compromised immune system. Fever, fatigue and muscles aches are the common symptoms, but severe cases can result in seizures, pneumonia, encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and visual problems.
5. A bacterium that can cause a range of infections, Group A streptococcus is spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of an infected person. Thought might sound gross, you will come into contact with mucus while kissing, but you could just as easily catch it by eating or drinking after an infected person. While most infections, like strep throat, are mild and easily treated with antibiotics, an untreated strep infection can lead to pneumonia.