You Can Get Two STIs From Kissing – Ugh!

Just when you thought kissing was pretty safe when it came to STIs, it turns out that there are actually two infections you can catch from making out. Great. It doesn’t mean you need to zip your lips, but here are 14 things to know so you can keep playing, just safer.

  1. The first STI you can get is herpes. Obviously, you know that herpes is easily transmitted. It’s so easy, in fact, that two-thirds of the population under the age of 50 have herpes simplex, or oral herpes.
  2. It’s marked by cold sores. When someone has oral herpes, they’ll have sores in and around the mouth. Direct contact between these contagious areas and broken skin, or the mucous membranes of the mouth, can lead to infection. Herpes isn’t curable, it can only be treated. When the herpes infection isn’t active, the virus sneaks away into the cells of the nervous system where it hides out.
  3. You might not know someone has herpes. Although you’ll be scrutinizing your partner’s mouth for cold sores before smooching (magnifying glass, anyone?), bear in mind that someone might not be having a herpes outbreak but they can still be contagious. This is known as asymptomatic shedding.
  4. It can lead to genital herpes. If someone who has oral herpes goes down on you, that can cause you to get cold sores on your genitals. Yikes. That’s why it’s so important to use a barrier, such as a dental dam, when receiving oral sex. And, of course, if you’re the one going down on them, use a condom!
  5. If someone has symptoms, don’t go there. If you do see a cold sore on someone’s mouth, FTLOG don’t kiss them and don’t let them anywhere near your genitals, at least until their skin looks normal. They’ll still be infectious after the outbreak but you might reduce your risk. Besides, who wants to get up close and personal with a cold sore? No thanks.
  6. The other STI you can get is syphilis. WTF? Syphilis is a highly contagious disease that also appears as cold sores in or around the mouth, which means it can be transmitted through kissing.
  7. Syphilis is on the rise. From 2014 to 2015, syphilis numbers reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increased by 17.7 percent! In actual numbers, that’s an increase from 63,453 to 74,702. Yikes.
  8. Don’t freak out. Yes, syphilis numbers are rising, but if you’re only kissing someone instead of having sex with them, you’re still reducing your risk in a big way. Don’t become obssessed about kissing. Just be smart about it and your health by going to the doctor if you see any weird sores in or around your mouth and not kissing that stranger at the club who looks like he’s breaking out above his lip. Okay?
  9. Syphilis can be treated. The catch is that you have to get it early. Syphilis is really easy to cure in its early stages. An injection of penicillin is all that’s needed. When someone has an outbreak of cold sores from syphilis, they’ll need to be put on antibiotics to clear it up.
  10. That doesn’t mean it’s all good. Just because STIs like syphilis can be cured doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give a damn about your health. Your partner’s oral health affects you, so it’s always a good idea to choose your next partner wisely, especially before deep kissing.
  11. Get tested! The only way to be 100 percent sure that you don’t have any STI and that the person you’re interested in doesn’t either is to take your asses to the clinic and get tested ASAP. This is the best thing you can do to be sure that you’re playing it safe. It’s your body and you have a right to keep it STI-free. No one’s worth getting an STI for.
  12. Care for your mouth. When you look after your mouth and teeth, you can reduce your risk of getting a kissing-related STI. Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day keeps your mouth hygienic (and makes you much more kissable), as does regularly seeing the dentist for checkups. This prevents the development of infections or sores in the mouth, reducing your risk of catching STIs through broken skin.
  13. Be smart about hygiene before kissing. Although you want to be fresh and clean for your next make-out session, be careful not to brush or floss your teeth immediately before you pucker up. These activities can cause microscopic cuts in the gums or mouth that you might not even see or feel, and they make STI transmission that much easier during kissing and oral sex.
  14. There are probably more STIs you can catch from kissing. There are loads of STIs out there, and many of them show up in similar ways, such as with sores or pimples around the genitals or mouth. That’s why it’s always worth spotting these immediately to keep yourself safe. Even if there are no symptoms that look dodgy, never skimp on protection. It’s just not worth it.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.