Will kissing give us swine flu?

Posted by on 22 May, 2009

So, recently there was a whole palaver in Mexico. The most popular soapies on Mexican tele were enjoying some inspiring new ratings levels nudged along nicely by there being absolutely nothing else to do in Mexico City, the Swine Flu capital of the world. In a salute to public health, the biggest soapie producer in Mexico, Televisia, axed all but ‘essential’ kissing scenes hoping not to spread the bug between its star actors.

So the real question begs to be asked; how dangerous is kissing?

Kissing rocks. Well it’s a nice thing to do if your partner doesn’t have horrific halitosis or a mouth full of metal… and there may even be health benefits. My old mate, Dr Enzo Binotto, an infectious diseases specialist at Cairns Base Hospital told me yesterday that there’s a theory that kissing actually gives you a low dose inoculation against all the bugs in your partner’s mouth boosting your own immunity along the way.

And the downsides? How contagious is swapping saliva?

Well yes it can mean swapping bugs as well, but not necessarily. You see the most common way to spread germs is the delightfully named’ faeco-oral’ route. Yes, it IS as revolting as it sounds. You shed germs in your faeces… which is a nice little adaptation by the bugs to ensure maximal propagation of their species. You see you go to the toilet for a number two and get distracted or have never quite nailed this whole bizarre hand washing caper. A quick splash of water on the hands or a 30 nanosecond smear of the old soap and you’re done- and the germs have escaped eradication!! You then shake hands with someone or touch a door handle, your desk or anything else that someone else proceeds to and hey presto!! Bug has found a new home to invade. NOTE TO ALL; WASH YOUR HANDS PROPERLY AND MAKE SURE YOU SUPERVISE YOUR KIDS POST POOP)

But not all bugs are restricted to finding their way to their next home via the bottom. Some- but not all- also are spread through the less sexy-sounding droplet route. That’s the saliva that some people generously share around when they’re talking, or the kissing that we tend to be more selective about.

Bugs that can be transmitted by kissing

·         Colds and flus

·         Glandular fever, which we used to call the kissing disease in High School.

·         Herpes (including cold sores) Even when there are no obvious blisters this virus can shed from your mouth (nice!)

·         Hepatitis B

·         Warts , yes they can happen inside the mouth which is not pretty.

·         Meningococcal infection.


But the thing is there seems to be a fairly dodgy transmission thing happening. You can swap saliva with your partner and not be stricken by his flu. At the same time most of us catch a cold without any memory of a close encounter of the intimate variety with anyone showing signs of a malady.

Enzo says the missing link is probably your immune system and whether you’ve actually developed some immunity to the bugs you’ve been exposed to without having an actual cold.


As for a kiss on the cheek, you’re in the clear. Very little chance of any faeces smearing or stray saliva contaminating proceedings there!