Can you catch an STI from a French kiss?

So, you’ve reached second base! Lucky you. You’ve reached that much anticipated first kiss with that hottie from across the bar. You are thinking this is a good, SAFE start to intimacy and it’s certainly not as bad as having oral sex or sexual intercourse with essentially a stranger, right? I hate to break it to you but, while it is very rare, it is possible to contract an STI simply from kissing.


Fortunately, Dr Preethi Daniel from London Doctors Clinic is here to break down everything you need to know about oral STIs.

What are oral STIs?

Oral STIs are most commonly shared through oral sex, and unprotected stimulation of the genitals or anus using the tongue or lips. This is because coming into contact with bodily fluids carries a significant risk of spreading STIs. However, a recent study, published in the British Journal of Medicine Sexually Transmitted Diseases, has found that kissing and specifically ‘deep kissing’ could also be to blame for the spread of STIs. The most common STIs which could be spread in this way include herpes, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, other hepatitis, warts and even HIV can be transmitted by kissing.


How to spot the symptoms?

While it is not very common to contract an STI from a kiss, your likelihood increases if you have cuts or sores in and around your mouth. Symptoms can vary from person to person and what the condition is. If you experience itching, rashes or sores in/around your mouth, this will require medical attention, similarly, a vague sore throat after contact with multiple partners could also be indicative of an STI. Here are the most common oral STIs and their symptoms:


Many people will not experience any symptoms of oral chlamydia, however for those that do they may experience painless sores, lesions that are similar to cold sores, tonsillitis or redness with white spots. A less conspicuous symptom is a scratchy, dry throat.


Much like with Chlamydia, many people who have oral gonorrhoea do not exhibit any symptoms, however if they are present you may experience a sore throat, a fever, redness or swollen lymph nodes in the neck



The symptoms of syphilis occur in stages which become progressively worse as they progress. The initial symptoms include painless sores or raised lesions which may appear grey or white.


The most common symptoms of oral herpes are cold sores which may occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside of the cheeks, throat and roof of the mouth. These may also extend to the chin or neck. Some people may also experience swollen and bleeding gums or swollen lymph nodes.


These will exhibit as warts or lesions in the mouth; however, they have little to no other symptoms and are generally painless.


HIV does not usually have symptoms in the early stages. Rarely, those with HIV in the mouth may experience a dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease, cold sores or oral warts.

How can you get diagnosed?

If you experience any of the above symptoms you should visit your GP. Many clinics offer same day throat swabs which can check for the signs of gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Any sores or lesions will need closer inspection and discussion with your GP, risk factors and symptoms must be assessed before testing is conducted. As with anything the sooner you are tested the easier it is to treat, so visit your GP as soon as you notice any unusual or uncomfortable symptoms.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment options depend on what STI has been contracted. Some infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. Viruses, such as herpes cannot be cured but the symptoms can be easily managed with medication. If you have developed warts, they will need to be treated with cryotherapy to completely eradicate the warts. Hepatitis and HIV have no cures and will require specialist management which your doctor will need to advise upon.

Dr Preethi Daniel is the Clinical Director at the, private GP, London Doctors Clinic

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