Chlamydia from kissing

There are many myths that surround the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, Chlamydia (Hub page) being one of them. These myths can make it difficult for people who are sexually active to make informed choices about their sex lives and keep themselves safe.

Pucker up

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One of the commonly asked questions about Chlamydia is whether it can be passed on by kissing another person. There are a number of very good reasons why this question comes up again and again, and the answers bear repeating to ensure that you have the best possible information about Chlamydia and your risks of contracting the infection.

The kissing disease?

There are plenty of illnesses that can be passed on by kissing, not all of which are considered to be sexually transmitted infections. The most common of these is the Epstein Barr virus, commonly known as Glandular Fever. This has come to be known as the kissing disease because of the ability to pass on the illness through close personal contact and the high rates of infection between young people who are more likely to be kissing more people and passing it from one person another.

The herpes virus, which is responsible for genital warts as well as for the cold sores that can develop around the mouth, can be passed on by kissing if one partner has an active flare-up of the virus with a sore when they are doing the kissing.

Kissing is considered by many to be a sexual act. Usually kissing takes place between two people who find each other sexually attractive and is frequently a precursor to sex itself, it is easy to understand why so many sexually transmitted infections from HIV and AIDS to Chlamydia have come to be associated with kissing. However, there are other reasons why kissing has been singled out as a way that Chlamydia can be passed from one partner to another.

Hosting bacteria

In order to develop the Chlamydia infection, you have to pick up the Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria. You can only get the bacteria from someone who already has it as it cannot survive outside of the body.

The most common place for the infection to take hold is in the ano-genital area – that is, the penis, vagina, urethra, anus or rectum. These areas are most commonly involved when engaging in sexual activity that puts a person at risk of contracting the infection. However, there is also the chance of picking up a Chlamydia infection through oral sex (11 Chlamydia from oral).

Your kisses will be safe so long as they’re not below the belt

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In the case of oral sex, the bacteria are usually transmitted into the mouth where it goes on to colonise the throat. Quite often, the Chlamydia bacteria will continue to live in the throat for months or years without any signs (14 Signs of Chlamydia) or symptoms of the infection developing. On account of this, some people have come to believe that if a person has Chlamydia in their throat, they can in turn pick it up and develop it as a result of kissing.

Other sites of infection

As well as being able to take up residence in the throat of someone who has been in contact with another person with the infection, Chlamydia can also affect the eyes. This occurs most commonly in babies who are born to mothers who unknowingly have a Chlamydial infection and pass it on to their babies in the birth canal during delivery. This can cause an infection called Chlamydial conjunctivitis, which if left untreated can cause blindness.

If you happen to get vaginal fluids or semen in the eyes from someone who has Chlamydia, there is a chance that you could develop Chlamydial conjunctivitis. Rubbing the eyes when fluids are on the hands can transmit the bacteria to the eyes and cause the infection, but a person who does so often wouldn’t remember doing it. The “mystery” eye infection that turns out to be Chlamydia is another burst of fuel on the fire of the myth that it can be passed on by means other than direct sexual contact.

Is kissing safe?

So far, you’ve read all the reasons why it is easy to understand how people can come to believe Chlamydia is passed on through kissing. What you haven’t seen is an absolute answer as to whether it is possible.

No matter how passionate, kissing is unlikely to cause Chlamydia

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In short, you cannot pick up Chlamydia through kissing. Even if someone has the Chlamydia infection in their throat, the type of contact required in order to make it possible for the bacteria to pass from one person to another means that it is practically impossible for someone to do so from kissing.

Of course, that assumes that the kinds of kisses we’re talking about are kisses on the mouth. As mentioned above, oral sex can transmit the infection and so if you find yourself with vaginal fluids or semen in your mouth you may be able to pick up the infection that way. For the most part, though, kissing is completely safe and you will not get Chlamydia just by locking lips with someone you like.

Conclusion

No matter what urban myths you may have heard, statistics (7 Chlamydia statistics for the UK in 2014) show that you’re extremely unlikely to get Chlamydia just from kissing. Thankfully, kissing is a pleasure that you don’t have to worry about indulging in with a person you find attractive and you can focus your effort on enjoying yourself.

Of course, if your kissing wanders below the belt it makes sense to take precautions to protect yourself from the Chlamydia infection. Using barrier methods such as condoms and dental dams will keep you out of harm’s way and stop you from contracting the infection and carrying it in your throat. It’s also advisable to make sure that if you’re engaging in any kind of sexual activity that involves getting you up close and personal with someone else’s genitalia, you have regular sexual health checks to ensure that you are safe, healthy and treated quickly if you happen to pick up something that you’d rather not.

Image Credits: Walt Stoneburner, Ty Nigh and See-Ming Lee