Saint Valentine’s Day is observed on 14 February each year. It has evolved into an occasion when lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery and sending of greeting cards. However, medical researchers and experts warn lovers to be careful with kissing, because kissing is a source of several diseases and infections, such as hepatitis B, infectious mononucleosis (or kissing disease), gum diseases, strep throat, infectious diseases from mouth sores,hand, foot, and mouth disease, HIV and meningococcal diseases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies Hepatitis viruses’ infection to be a major disease burden worldwide. According Dr. Olufunmilayo Lesi, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Nigeria belongs to the group of countries highly endemic for this viral hepatitis. Its prevalence is about 10-20 per cent in Nigeria from the extrapolation of 90 million Nigerians. A disease condition that can be transmitted through viral infections A-E, bacteria, drugs, alcohol, certain medications, chemicals, bacteria, poisons, toxins, by other diseases… and through kissing.
“It is a disease condition that spreads like a plague and cracks the largest organ in the body like an earthquake, with long term asymptomatic damage to the liver if the infection is in a chronic stage. The long term damage to the liver restrains the liver from performing its numerous functions,” the doctor said.
Kiss may be a source of diseases and infections
She added that having multiple sex partners and engaging in a deep kiss with an infected person who has an ulcer or sores in the gum, mouth or on the tongue is a risk factor of its transmission of hepatitis B.
“It is also transmitted mainly by contact with blood or blood products or body fluid, sharing of contaminated needles, blade, sharing of toothbrushes, nail clippers, pedicure and manicure tools and sexual intercourse with an infected person.”
She pointed out that in Nigeria the commonest cause are the viruses.
The treasurer of Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN), Dr. Edith Okeke also affirmed that 19 million Nigerians are infected with hepatitis. In chronic hepatitis B, there is manifestation of symptoms like prolonged vomiting, nausea, fatigue or weakness, confusion or difficulty concentrating, headache, not urinating, irritability, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and legs, stomach hardness, weight loss and cirrhosis among others.
A condition in which healthy liver tissue is replaced by fibrous tissue, followed by scar-like hardening. As this happens, the liver gradually begins to fail, or lose its ability to carry out its normal functions
Researchers have also identified infectious mononucleosis, or ‘kissing disease’ caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or cytomegalovirus (CMV). This is a disease condition that can be transferred when contact is made with the saliva of the infected person through kissing.
Symptoms of infectious mononucleosis include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and extreme fatigue that may last six weeks or longer. Treatment consists of comfort measures for fever and pain. Since the cause is viral, antibiotics are not effective against the disease.
Also infectious diseases from the mouth sore, such as cold sores that spread through open cold sores on the lips or near the mouth, have been mentioned by experts to be transferable through mouth contact and kissing.
Explaining the link of HIV transmission through saliva, Dr. Oliver Ezechiu of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, said saliva carries a negligible viral load, but in an open-mouthed kissing it is considered a low risk.
However, if the infected partner or both of the performers have blood in their mouth due to cuts, open sores, or gum disease the risk is higher.
Other interactions that could theoretically result in person-to-person transmission include caring for nose bleeds, biting and home healthcare procedures, but with very few recorded incidents of transmission occurring in this way.
Meningitis is also identified as a potential life-threatening infection of the tough layer of the tissues that surround the brain and the spinal cord. If not treated it can lead to brain swelling and cause permanent disability, coma and even death. The infection can be spread through contact with saliva, mucus, or faecal matter, throat and respiratory secretions — for example, by coughing or kissing.
It’s not so pessimistic, after all
Regardless of the fact that kissing could expose one to loads of germs and infections, experts also revealed that kissing is good to boost immunity, burn calories, and keep facial muscles strong.
Scientific reports say kissing increases the levels of oxytocin, the body’s natural calming chemical and also increases endorphins, the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals.
Swapping spit is also noted to increase dopamine, which aids in feelings of romantic attachment. Kissing reduces blood levels of IgE, allergy antibody. It increases emotional bonds, stimulates saliva production that keeps the mouth healthy and it reduces stress.
Kissing is not just for fun, it is also good for your health. But it is advisable to keep the mouth healthy and be conscious of who you kiss.