It's 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. I have just woken up from a nightmare in which pilgrims were chasing me, trying to chop off my hands. I'm about 35 percent awake and I'm very happy to see that I still possess my hands... until I see a red bump on my palm. It sort of itches, so naturally, I assume it's cancer. I ask WebMD what she thinks, then diagnose myself with herpes of the hand, which only sort of exists. Welcome to the diary of a hypochondriac who has most definitely Googled "Can I get STDs from kissing?"
Never have I ever slept with someone on a first date, but oh yes, have I ever made out on a first date. Kissing is fun and I really like doing it, especially with a cutie who just dazzled me with his knowledge of references to Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development. I sweat a good makeout sesh more than I sweat a good time in the bedroom. The whole kissing thing feels a lot less risky than "doing it" for a health-paranoid lady like me. (#DiaryOfAHypochondriac)
Now, before we get into the STDs you can catch from smooching, I want to remind you that I am an anxious, overreactive, hypochondriac. I am presenting you with this information as a means of informing you, not as a way to scare you out of putting your mouth on someone else's. There are a lot of fears and rumors out there when it comes to STDs. Here are the two you might get from kissing:
I know, herpes is a definite bummer. Unfortunately, it's incurable. It also sounds gross. But let's take a moment to break down why you shouldn't freak out about the possibility of catching oral herpes from kissing: First, oral herpes and genital herpes are two different things. According to the CDC, genital herpes is caused by two viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2, while oral herpes is typically caused by HSV-1.
Here's another important fact: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 50 to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes. So, you're in good company. The CDC reports that most of these people were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva. Ever had a cold sore? A blister in your mouth? You may have herpes already. These are called "outbreaks."
Your partner can still transmit oral herpes to you even if they have no symptoms of an outbreak, and oral herpes can become genital herpes if your partner is infected and goes down on you. Remember the thing I said about no cure? Don't freak out. If you have herpes, you may never develop any symptoms. And if you do, there are also antiviral topical ointments as well as antiviral oral medications that your healthcare professional can recommend.
Again, according to Johns Hopkins, over 90 percent of the population have been exposed to the virus by age 50, so don't let your fear of herpes keep you from kissing anyone every again. Maybe steer clear of making out with having an active outbreak, though.
If you're anything like me, syphilis sounds approximately 642 times more scary than herpes. Can't syphilis turn my skin into one giant rash? Isn't syphilis what Chelsea Handler claims Donald Trump has? (*Shivers*) Before you totally freak out, let's break it down: According to the CDC, syphilis is a scary sounding STD that can have serious complications when left untreated, but it is actually simple to cure with the right treatment.
The primary stage of syphilis is marked by sores at the area of infection, which usually develop around the genitals, anus, or rectum, but which can also develop around the mouth. The sores are round and open, and so kissing can allow the virus to be spread via saliva. However, this is very rare. According to the Center for Young Women, syphilis is most commonly spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and rarely spread via kissing.
In summation: Don't freak out. If you think you might have syphilis, call your doctor to get an STD test. Your doc will be able to help you get the treatment you need to keep it from progressing. HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are not typically transferred via kissing. Of course, if you have an open sore in your mouth, you should take extra care to make sure you are not kissing someone infected with one of these STDs.
At the end of the day, your sexual health should be a priority, but it should not send you down the rabbit hole that is medical information on the internet. Rather than troll the Reddit feeds on horror stories of STDs, talk to your doctor, a trusted family member or friend, and your partner about your sexual health concerns. Make sure to get tested regularly so that you can kiss with confidence. Bisous!
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