Can you get Chlamydia from kissing?

23rd January 2020

Chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported STI’s (especially among young people), and yet there still remains uncertainty about what causes it, how it’s caught and whether or not it’s treatable. One common theory is that the infection can be spread through kissing; but is that true?

Can you catch Chlamydia from kissing?

No, you can’t catch Chlamydia from kissing, hugging, drinking from the same glass or from a toilet seat. This is a misconception that has largely come from poor sex education and fear surrounding STI’s.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection and the bacteria that causes the infection lives exclusively in the genital fluids of infected men and women. You can only catch Chlamydia through unprotected sex (vaginal, oral and anal) with someone who has the disease.

Can you catch any STI’s from kissing?

There are only a couple of STI’s that you actually can get through kissing. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes, and this can be spread easily through kissing, especially when sores are open and visible.

It’s easier to catch HSV-1 (the virus that causes cold sores) through kissing than it is to catch HSV-2 (the virus that causes genital herpes). However, mouth-to-mouth transmission is still possible, and if you do contract the virus then you will live with it forever, as the body cannot expel the virus completely.

Even though herpes can’t be cured, there are antiviral medications available to treat symptoms and minimise the number of flare-ups and outbreaks you experience.

Syphilis is another sexually transmitted infection that can rarely be passed on through kissing. The infection is more commonly transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex, but one of the symptoms of syphilis is sores in the mouth, and these can allow the bacteria to pass on to someone else through kissing (especially deep, open-mouthed kissing with tongue).

Syphilis is a bacterial infection, so it is curable with a short course of antibiotics. It’s important to catch (and treat) syphilis as early as possible to avoid any long-term complications and to prevent the spread of the disease.

Other myths about Chlamydia

So you now know the score when it comes to Chlamydia (and other STI’s) and kissing. But what about some other things you may have heard? Let’s separate the myth from the fact...

You’ll know if you have chlamydia because you’ll have symptoms

Myth. Chlamydia is asymptomatic around 50% of the time in men and around 75% in women, so there’s a fairly good chance that you could have Chlamydia without even realising it.

The fact that Chlamydia can go by undetected so easily is why it’s so important to get checked for STI’s regularly and to always practise safe sex by using condoms.

If you do get symptoms for Chlamydia then these will usually include genital discharge, pain when urinating, pain during sex or lower abdominal pain. However, these can also be the symptoms of other infections (sexually transmitted and otherwise) so you should always get checked.

You can’t get Chlamydia the first time you have sex

Myth. Any unprotected sex that you have puts you at risk of sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the hundreth time; unprotected sex puts you at risk of infection.

You can only have one STI at a time

Myth. Sexually transmitted infections do not work mutually exclusively from each other, and having one does not stop you from getting another. In fact, it often works in the opposite way; being infected with one STI can increase your risk of catching another.

You can get Chlamydia through oral or anal sex

Fact. People often seem to worry less about protecting themselves during oral or anal sex, possibly due to the lack of risk regarding pregnancy. However, you leave yourself just as open to sexually transmitted infections like Chlamydia if you don’t use proper contraception during all kinds of sex.

You can only get Chlamydia once

Myth. Some people mistakenly believe that after a Chlamydia infection, the body builds up an immunity to the disease and you can’t get it again. This is entirely false and there is no limit to the amount of times you can catch Chlamydia if you don’t follow safe sex practises.

Treating Chlamydia with antibiotics like Azithromycin or Doxycycline is simple and clears the infection quickly. However, if your partner isn’t treated too, or if you have unprotected sex with a new partner straight after, you could easily become reinfected.

You’ll definitely get Chlamydia if you have sex with an infected person

Myth. If you have sex once with one partner who has Chlamydia then there’s around a 30% chance that you’ll become infected too. Which may not sound as alarmingly high as you expected. But of course, the more times you have sex or the more people you have sex with, the higher the risk gets.

The risk of transmission is impacted by a number of factors, including the severity of the infection, the gender of the infected/uninfected partner, your overall health, whether or not you already have any other STI’s, how long you have sex for, the type of sex you’re having, whether or not you use any lubricants and the type of lubricants used.

It’s not an exact science though and you should view all unprotected sex as a risk of catching Chlamydia and other STI’s. To ensure you properly look after your sexual health, you should always use condoms and get yourself checked every 12 months or with every new partner.