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can you get gonorrhea from kissing

By: RSC Editorial Team

January 3, 2023

Can You Get Gonorrhea From Kissing?

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial infection that typically spreads through sexual contact, though recent studies indicate some risk factors for spreading gonorrhea through kissing. You might wonder: Can you get gonorrhea from kissing? While the past few decades of research would answer no, a recent study of 3,677 gay or bisexual men revealed a link between oropharyngeal gonorrhea (oral gonorrhea) and kissing-only relationships. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported spikes in gonorrhea cases since 2019. In 2020, cases increased by as much as 10%. A lack of education surrounding how gonorrhea spreads may explain this sudden rise in gonorrhea cases. 

Education and awareness are key in preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs or STIs). At Rapid STD Testing, we provide educational resources and same-day STD testing with discreet results so you and your sex partners can stay safe. Continue reading to learn more about gonorrhea transmission. 

How Does Gonorrhea Typically Spread?

Gonorrhea spreads through bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal discharge, or pre-seminal fluid inside the genitals, anus, or mouth. The most common way people contract gonorrhea is by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Even if one or each partner wears a condom or barrier, bodily fluids may still spread the infection. 

So how can you get gonorrhea from kissing someone? Oral gonorrhea can spread when one or both sexual partners come in contact, before kissing, with the bodily fluidswe mentioned above . For example, if sexually active people have unprotected oral-to-genital sex before deep mouth-to-mouth kissing, they may transmit genital fluids by mouth. 

You can also contract gonorrhea by touching your eye with the bacteria-infected fluids on your hands. Another top way that gonorrhea spreads is through childbirth, when the mother may pass the bacterial infection to the newborn via vaginal fluid contact.

Gonorrhea Symptoms

Many people with gonorrhea experience no symptoms, which can increase the spread. Those who do experience symptoms of oral gonorrhea frequently believe they are throat infections, making treatment and diagnosis challenging.

Because you can receive an STD without sex or symptoms, you should regularly get tested with a 10-panel STD test to keep yourself and others safe. 

Common symptoms of oral gonorrhea contracted through kissing may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Throat redness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

You may also contract the infection in your genitals or anus, causing varying symptoms. The most common symptoms of urogenital gonorrhea include the following:

  • Pain or burning sensations with urinating
  • Strange discharge
  • Swollen groin lymph nodes
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain or swelling in testicles 

Rectal gonorrhea symptoms include the following:

  • Rectal discharge or bleeding
  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Pain during bowel movements. 

How Common Is Gonorrhea?

When determining whether or not you can get gonorrhea from kissing, it’s important to consider how common the disease is. While the kissing transmission scenario may sound rare, the number of infected individuals represents a growing concern. 

Gonorrhea is the second-most-common bacterial STD. Approximately 1.1 to 1.6 million new cases of gonorrhea occur in the United States each year, with half being ages 15 to 24. 

Is It Possible To Spread Gonorrhea Through Kissing?

Can you get oral gonorrhea from kissing, and can you give someone gonorrhea by kissing? Recent findings show that yes, you can contract gonorrhea through kiss-only contact if one or both partners were sexually active before the contact. 

A research study with 3,677 adult males identified as bisexual or gay between ages 25 and 37 measured the outcomes of different interactions. 6.2% of the group contracted oral gonorrhea. The mean number of kissing-only partners was 4.3, sex-only was 1.4, and kissing-with-sex in the last three months was 5. 

The study concluded that the odds of men contracting oral gonorrhea was 1.46 for partners with four or more kissing-only partners and 1.81 for men with four or more kissing-with-sex partners. These findings show that the gonorrhea transmission rates for non-sexual contact are still nearly as high as sexual interactions. 

French kissing (with tongues) increases transmission risks by including more saliva exchange than closed-mouth lip kissing. Because oral gonorrhea can exist without symptoms, many people may spread the disease via kissing without realizing it. Such information should warrant greater concerns surrounding the safety of non-sexual interactions. 

People with active-kissing lifestyles should proceed with caution given this recent information. While kissing a stranger or regular partner may seem harmless, they might carry a bacterial infection in their saliva. The best way to avoid spreading and contracting gonorrhea through kissing is by receiving regular rapid STD test screenings and urging your partners to do the same. 

Can You Get Gonorrhea by Sharing Utensils?

Researchers do not believe you can contract gonorrhea by sharing utensils, straws, cups, etc. While the bacteria may transfer from genital fluids to saliva, current evidence does not support the transfer of the infected saliva across objects. Note that you can contract other STDs, like herpes, through sharing drinks with others, so you should remain cautious. 

Objects that come in direct contact with genital fluids may still spread gonorrhea. For example, sharing sex toys with an infected partner may place you at risk of contracting gonorrhea. 

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Gonorrhea?

Oral gonorrhea doesn’t always display symptoms, though when it does, you may experience a sore throat, throat redness, swollen lymph nodes, or a fever. Many struggle to distinguish such symptoms from those of a common throat infection. 

Because you can contract an STD from oral sex, kissing, and many other activities, you should regularly receive STD screenings to keep yourself and others safe. You can order tests online from us at Rapid STD Testing for fast and discreet results or visit your local clinic. 

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe health complications, including HIV risks, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. When the bacteria enter the reproductive tract, they can cause epididymis inflammation in men (infection of the testicular tubes), potentially resulting in infertility. Because of the severe complications, you should regularly test yourself for gonorrhea to receive proper and timely treatments before the bacterial infection progresses. 

What Other STDs Can You Get From Kissing?

Now that you know the answers to “Can you get gonorrhea from kissing?” and “Can you give gonorrhea by kissing?” it’s time to understand other orally-spread STDs. Gonorrhea is not the only STD that can spread via kissing. A few other sexually-transmitted diseases and infections can easily or rarely spread through exchanging saliva. 

STDs that easily spread through kissing include the following:

  • Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1): HSV-1 is one of the most easily spread STDs that can transmit through kissing or touching infected objects, like straws or utensils. Over two-thirds of the U.S. population have HSV-1, some showing symptoms of blisters and sores around the mouth, with many asymptomatic. 
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV is another virus that spreads through kissing, though it requires open-mouth saliva exchanges. Untreated HPV can develop into various cancers. 

STDs with lower probabilities of spreading through kissing include the following:

  • Syphilis: Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can only spread through kissing if the infected person has sores in or around their mouth. 
  • Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2): HSV-2 is similar to HSV-1, though it causes sores and other symptoms around the genitals rather than the mouth, making it less common to spread via kissing. HSV-2 transmissions through kissing typically occur after sexual contact.

STDs that rarely spread through kissing include the following:

  • HIV
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Is It Common to Get STDs From Kissing? 

Researchers do not yet know how common STDs are from kissing, as much of the information is relatively new. HSV-1 and HPV can easily spread through oral contact, while other STDs, like HIV, only spread through genital fluids, making kissing transmission far less common. The probability of contracting gonorrhea from kissing may seem low, though the more partners and person has, the higher their risks are. 

How Are Oral STDs Treated?

Oral STDs, like HSV-1 and HPV, require antiviral medications for flare-ups. Antivirals can ease symptoms, but they will not cure or prevent the disease from recurring. 

The treatment for gonorrhea typically includes antibiotics. Syphilis requires an injection of penicillin.

Reducing the Risks for Oral Transmission

If you searched online, “Can I get gonorrhea from kissing?” you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. Education and awareness are some of the best tools for reducing STD transmission risks. 

Avoiding kissing altogether is the primary way to remove oral transmission risks, though many cannot integrate this into their lifestyle. If you wish to maintain your current activities, you can reduce risks by practicing the following:

  • Avoid kissing anyone with visible sores or blisters.
  • Don’t break the skin or bite while kissing.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth or flossing immediately after kissing.
  • Maintain your oral hygiene.
  • Don’t kiss partners if you feel sick.
  • Use barriers, dental dams, and condoms during oral sex and other activities.
  • Receive the proper vaccinations for diseases like HPV and Hepatitis B.
  • Consistently receive STD tests, even if you don’t notice symptoms.
  • Urge your partners to receive regular STD screenings as well.

Open wounds in the mouth can increase your risk of contracting bacteria. While brushing your teeth after kissing may seem like the smart solution, it can open up your gums with minor cuts, increasing your risks. If you have internal wounds, like a burn on your tongue, you should avoid open-mouth kissing until they heal. 

Stay Safe and Get Tested Today 

Can you get gonorrhea from kissing? Yes, you can, so you must regularly receive STD screenings to get ahead on treatments and prevent the spread. STDs can operate stealthily, moving from person to person without causing symptoms.  

At Rapid STD Testing, we provide fast and discrete 10-panel STD tests so you can prioritize your health. Order tests online from Rapid STD Testing today, call us at (866) 872-1888 if you have any questions, or visit your local STD testing center if you’re concerned with any symptoms.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
January 3, 2023

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