Passionate kissing is a thing of beauty which leads to many things… including some diseases and oral problems. While our saliva has a clear cleansing purpose, our mouths are a boiling pool of bacteria and pathogens which lead to oral diseases. In turn, such diseases can spread through kissing. There are many common and less common oral problems that are contagious or not contagious and today we will take a closer look at some of the most frequent ones to get a clear idea of what is dangerous and what isn’t – so we can kiss more often in full safety.
Life in Mono
Mononucleosis is THE kissing disease du jour, affecting children, young adults and mature persons alike. It is such a common infection it sometimes goes unnoticed, even if the symptoms are invasive. Mononucleosis is an infectious disease transmitted through saliva and caused by the Epstein-Barr virus – belonging to the herpes virus family.
The problem with mono is that it becomes symptomatic only after 4 to 8 weeks after the person has been exposed to the virus. This is why it can go misdiagnosed at first. According to recent studies, the mono virus is prevalent to places and communities of young adults. Also, it is said that up to 95% of adults (ages 35 to 40) have been infected with mononucleosis at least once in their lifetime.
The symptoms of infectious mononucleosis include sore throats, fever spikes, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, sometimes and a rash in the presence of antibiotic treatments.
The treatment of mononucleosis relies on the treatment of its symptoms and on prevention methods. Since almost all of us carry the virus without manifesting the disease, prevention is the first step to counter the spreading:
- Don’t kiss a person showing a mild cold / flu symptoms as a sore throat and a fever may also be an indicator of the mono disease.
- Avoid sharing food utensils, drinks, straws, cigarettes, vapers etc with other people
- Keep a balanced diet, exercise and get enough sleep – a healthy and strong immune system will fight better against a mono disease.
Do You Kiss Your Mother with That Mouth?
Cold sores represent an infectious disease caused by Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1). While kissing diseases are spread through saliva, the HSV-1 virus is spread through open cold sores placed on the lips’ interior or inside / outside of the mouth. Unfortunately, the virus is contagious in all stages of the sores, becoming more powerful when the sores are open and leaking fluid.
Cold sores look like small red blisters and spread from one person to another, especially in compact groups: family members and close contacts. The sores spread through kissing and sharing of items (food utensils, drinks, drinking straws etc), towels and napkins. The infection occurs when the item which has reached the mouth / lips of the infected person also reaches the mouth / lips of an uninfected person.
According to statistics, 8 out of 10 people have the virus. It is common to crowded places, but unlike mono, it isn’t prevalent to a certain age group – however research found cold sores to be more frequent in children.
After a person is infected with the HSV-1 virus strain, the virus hides in the nerve cells and begins manifesting when the person is subjected to high levels of physical or psychological stress. Such sources of stress include, but are not limited to, fatigue and exhaustion, colds, other infections, prolonged exposure to sunlight, menstruation, emotional stress, injuries or gastrointestinal illnesses.
While the cold sores can be asymptomatic, sometimes they come together with flu-like symptoms including sore throat and mouth, fever and body aches.
The treatment usually includes antiviral medications, but, just as is the case with mono, prevention is your best bet to avoid an infection:
- Avoid kissing people who have tiny blisters around their mouths or on their lips
- Avoid sharing items that can spread the disease from mouth to mouth
- Wash your hands carefully
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle to have your immune system ready to fight an infection
- Avoid sun exposure
- Use lip balm and cream to treat dry or injured lips and keep your lips hydrated all day long.
When it comes to kissing-transmitted diseases, there are plenty of other issues to discuss and clarify. For instance is gingivitis contagious is one of the most frequent questions doctors got. While the contagiousness of gingivitis makes the topic of a more detailed discussion, we have to emphasize on the fact that people mistake cold sores for canker sores – the latter are not contagious even if their unsightly appearance and their location might compel one to believe they are transmissible through saliva and kissing.