Can You Catch a Chest Infection From Kissing

Beyond words, kissing is one of the few ways to express love, affection, and sexual romance. In other instances, kissing is used to reflect friendship, peace, and greetings. Regardless of the occasion, kissing has some benefits such as initiating the release of oxytocin and dopamine, also referred to as the love and happy hormones, respectively.1 A study has also noted that kissing reduces stress levels.1

However, there are concerns about getting chest infections such as acute bronchitis, glandular fever, pneumonia, or sore throat, from kissing. While pneumonia bacteria is readily detectable in saliva, it has not been established how kissing is a route for the transmission of Streptococcus pneumoniae3. On the other hand, there is a likelihood that deep kissing which involves salival exchange, may lead to pharyngeal gonorrhoea infections.4 

Aside from these, the range of lung infections you can get from kissing even extends to zoonotic infections, i.e. infections passed from animals to humans. For instance, a study discussed a woman who was infected with pneumonia due to kissing her dog pet.2 

How disease is spread

Diseases spread directly or indirectly from person to person through different modes of transmission, such as;

Contact

Often, we touch contaminated surfaces, sneeze or cough into our hands, or forget to wash our hands after we use the toilet, and then touch other people with those hands. Disease-causing organisms present in our hands can be transmitted from unclean hands to family and friends. Unwashed hands-on food also goes a long way in infecting the food. 

In addition, contact with the blood or other body fluids such as urine, faeces, and semen of infected persons can make diseases spread. A person can contract these diseases via activities such as kissing, sexual contact or sharing sharp objects. Some diseases may also be contracted through contact with environmental sources, including water, soil, and animals.

Airborne 

Respiratory droplets (also known as aerosols) are easily spread when you cough, sneeze, talk or sing. When these droplets are dispersed from an infected person, then anyone in close contact can easily catch the infection too, leading to disease. Sometimes, persons who are not in close contact are susceptible to infections as well because aerosols can settle on other objects such as tables, toys or cups. When another person touches these objects and places the same hand on their nose or mouth, the infection can transfer, which may penetrate the lung, causing a lung infection. 

Viruses that can be transmitted by kissing

During deep kissing, there is an exchange of saliva which is one of the routes that aids the transportation of viruses from one person to another. Examples of viral diseases that can be transmitted by kissing include;

Glandular Fever (Infectious Mononucleosis)

Also known as kissing disease, glandular fever is a viral disease caused by the Epstein-Barr  virus and is common in teenagers and young adults. Some of the symptoms include high temperature, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, and fatigue. However, these symptoms do not develop until after six weeks of infection. Apart from kissing, glandular fever can also be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes or cups. 

Herpes

Dubbed as cold sores, herpes is a disease caused by a virus and can be contracted by kissing someone with oral herpes. The symptoms appear within 48 hours and may include blisters on the face or cold sores with itching and burning feelings. These symptoms may tend to reoccur, and it is best to avoid kissing when these symptoms develop to prevent further disease transmission.

Hepatitis B

Kissing transmits the contagious Hepatitis B virus from an infected person to a susceptible person. There are usually no symptoms until about three months after, and symptoms could last from 2-12 weeks. Some hepatitis B symptoms include loss of appetite, diarrhoea, fever, tiredness, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a disease that affects the smaller airways in the lungs (bronchioles) and is caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). An RSV infection comes with symptoms such as loss of appetite, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and fever, among others. RSV is spread by contact with contaminated respiratory droplets, kissing (mouth to mouth), and sharing cups or drinks.

Bacteria that can be transmitted by kissing

It is possible for bacteria to be transmitted through kissing and makes a susceptible person subject to diseases such as;

Pneumonia

Just like the flu or cold, pneumonia is a bacterial chest infection caused by an organism called Chlamydia psittaci, which is also common in infected birds. So while it is possible to get pneumonia from kissing, it is also possible to contract pneumonia from an infected animal. A person who has caught pneumonia will experience chest pain during breathing, nausea, and diarrhoea, among other symptoms. 

Gum Disease

The mouth hosts a couple of both useful and harmful bacteria. The bad bacteria in the mouth are often responsible for gum disease and cavities. During kissing, some harmful bacteria may find their way into your mouth and then make you suffer from gum diseases or cavities.

Can you catch a chest infection from kissing?

It is possible to catch a chest infection from kissing, especially when it involves saliva exchange. The viruses and bacteria in saliva can easily be exchanged during kissing, making it easy for diseases to spread. On the other hand, an infected person may breathe out infected particles into the air, and anyone in close contact may inhale these particles. 

Signs and symptoms of chest infection

The time it takes to develop signs and symptoms of chest infection varies from within 24 hours to after several days of exposure. Nevertheless, some common signs are:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle ache
  • shallow breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry cough
  • Blood-stained, green or yellow phlegm (mucus) after coughing
  • Chills

What can cause chest infection?

Chest infection is mostly caused by viruses and bacteria. These organisms spread when there is an exchange of body fluid with an infected person and when such a person coughs or sneezes. Coughing or sneezing enables the release of tiny droplets which another person may inhale. Also, these tiny droplets rest on the surface and may be picked up when someone touches the contaminated surface. To diagnose chest infection, doctors will request your medical history, test your blood and phlegm or order a chest x-ray. Classes of people most vulnerable to chest infections are:

  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals with underlying health conditions (e.g. asthma)
  • Smokers
  • Children
  • Young adults
  • Aged people
  • Persons with a weak immune system

Prevention of infection while kissing

To reduce the risk of infection while kissing, you can:

  • Avoid kissing someone that is ill
  • Improve or maintain good oral hygiene 
  • Avoid kissing someone with cold sores or blisters 
  • Give reasonable space to persons coughing or sneezing 
  • Sneeze or cough into a handkerchief rather than your hands
  • Inquire from the GP if they offer vaccines against infectious diseases such as hepatitis B

Treatment and home remedies

When you start to develop symptoms of a disease you might have contracted from kissing, you should:

  • Get enough rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids 
  • Eats lots of fruits 
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers (paracetamol, ibuprofen e.t.c)
  • Inhale the steam from hot water (for adults only)
  • Avoid smoking
  • Use air humidifier

When to seek medical attention?

While some chest infections make you feel unwell within 24 to 48 hours, others may not become evident until after some weeks or even months. However, you should see a doctor if:

  • You have had a cough for more than three weeks 
  • You are beginning to cough up blood-stained
  • You notice blisters around your mouth
  • You think your child has a chest infection
  • You are having difficulty in breathing
  • You get tired frequently or feel drowsy
  • You are experiencing chest pain
  • You have a high fever
  • You have other health conditions, such as asthma
  • Your symptoms seem to be getting worse and not improving

Summary

Although kissing serves as a mode in which disease-causing organisms can be transferred from one person to another, the risk of catching an infection is low. Kissing also comes with useful health benefits such as stress reduction, metabolic boost, increased immunity and emotional bonding.

References

  1. Agyeman HK, Owusu-Banahene J, Agyeman BK, Darko EO, Agyeman D, Afful C, et al. Neurophysiology of Philematology and Some Infectious Disease. Advances in Biological Chemistry [Internet]. 2019 Jul 18 [cited 2022 Oct 23];9(4):143–55. Available from: http://www.scirp.org/Journal/Paperabs.aspx?paperid=94457
  2. Bhatt N, Lazarus A. Don’t smooch that pooch! A Rare Case of Pasteurella Multocida Pneumonia in an Elderly Woman. CHEST [Internet]. 2014 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Oct 24];146(4):146A. Available from: https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(16)49405-5/abstract
  3. Rijkers GT, Rodriguez Gomez M. Rocking pneumonia. Pneumonia [Internet]. 2017 Dec 15 [cited 2022 Oct 24];9(1):18. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s41479-017-0043-0
  4. Hook EW, Bernstein K. Kissing, Saliva Exchange, and Transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The Lancet Infectious Diseases [Internet]. 2019 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Oct 24];19(10):e367–9. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1473309919303068
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Temitope Esther Adereni

Master's degree, Public Health, University of Dundee

Temitope is a public health graduate with a demonstrated history of working in the communications industry. Skilled in medical writing, editing, qualitative interviewing, data analysis, data collection, Microsoft Office, proofreading and publications. She is passionate about healthcare research and helping others stay healthy while protecting them from threats to their health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Email:
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818