Can You Get an STI from Kissing?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs, sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs) are bacterial or viral infections that are usually spread through sexual contact.

When it comes to STI transmission, some sex acts, like kissing, are considered to be lower risk than others. But kissing isn't completely risk free.

This article will explain everything you need to know about STIs and kissing, including the types of STIs that can be transmitted, diagnostic procedures, prevention, and more.

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Can STIs Be Spread Through Kissing?

Kissing is generally a low-risk activity, but there are several STIs you can contract and spread by kissing.

Which STIs Can Be Spread Through Kissing?

The two types of STIs that can be spread through kissing are oral herpes and syphilis. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can be transmitted by kissing, too. Although it's not officially considered an STI, it is a viral infection that can be spread by sexual contact.

Very Easily Transmitted

Oral herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and is the STI that's most easily transmitted through kissing. Oral herpes is incredibly common, affecting an estimated 3.7 billion people worldwide under the age of 50. That's 67% of the under-50 population.

Less Easily Transmitted

Although CMV, a viral infection, isn't on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) list of sexually transmitted infections, it can be spread through sexual contact. It's not easily transmitted through kissing, but it's possible to do so. CMV is transmissible through bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, blood, tears, semen, and breast milk.

Unlikely to Be Transmitted

Syphilis, a bacterial STI, is usually transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Syphilis can be spread through kissing if one partner has a sore in their mouth, though this is uncommon.

How Long Does It Take for Oral STIs to Show Symptoms?

How long it takes for an STI to show up will vary, because each type of STI has its own incubation period.

For oral herpes, the incubation period is two to 12 days. For CMV, it's three to 12 weeks, and for syphilis, it's 10 to 90 days.

When to Get Tested

Routine STI testing is recommended for all sexually active people. It's important to know that STI testing is not typically part of your annual physical, so you may need to request it.

You should also get tested if you suspect you've been exposed to an STI, even if you don't have any symptoms. Many of the tests used to screen for STIs can detect them even if you're asymptomatic.


STIs are diagnosed via various types of tests, including blood tests, urine tests, and swab samples. Oral herpes, CMV, and syphilis are all diagnosed with a blood test.


The type of treatment will vary based on the type of STI you're diagnosed with.

The main treatment for syphilis is usually penicillin G. That said, other antibiotics may be used as well. The stage of syphilis infection will help determine the course of treatment.

Treatment for oral herpes includes antiviral medications such as Famvir (famciclovir), Valtrex (valacyclovir), and Zovirax (acyclovir). These medications can help reduce your symptoms, but there is no cure for herpes.

Healthy individuals who contract CMV typically do not need medical treatment. Those with weakened immune systems should contact their healthcare providers for their recommended course of treatment.


STI prevention is important, and there are a number of strategies to help prevent both contracting and spreading STIs. These include:

  • Get regular STI testing.
  • Engage in mutual monogamy.
  • Use barrier methods, such as a condom.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with your partners.


STIs are diseases that are primarily spread through sexual contact. Some sex acts are higher risk than others. Kissing is considered to be low risk, but you can still get oral herpes, CMV, and syphilis from kissing. Using barrier methods during sex, getting regular STI screenings, and communicating openly with partners can help prevent the spread of STIs.

A Word From Verywell

Although an estimated 1 in every 5 adults in the United States has an STI, there continues to be stigma around them. Don't let shame or embarrassment keep you from getting tested or treated for an STI. There are many effective prescription medications available that can help you feel better quickly. Seeing a healthcare provider will also help protect you from the complications associated with untreated STIs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get chlamydia from kissing?

    No, chlamydia is not transmissable by kissing. Chlamydia is transmitted via oral, anal, or genital sex. Barrier methods can help lower your risk of contracting and spreading this STI.

  • How long do STIs take to show up?

    How long it takes for an STI to show symptoms will depend on the type of infection. Some STIs present with no symptoms at all. If you suspect you've been exposed to an STI, get tested.

  • How likely is getting an STI from kissing?

    It depends on the STI. Oral herpes is very easily passed on through kissing, but syphilis is likely to be.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Herpes simplex virus.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About cytomegalovirus (CMV).

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Syphilis - STD Fact Sheet.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes – CDC fact sheet (detailed).

  6. New York State Department Of Health. Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Syphilis - STI treatment guidelines, 2021.

  8. Kreisel KM, Spicknall IH, Gargano JW, et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections Among US Women and Men: Prevalence and Incidence Estimates, 2018Sex Transm Dis. 2021;48(4):208-214. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001355

By Molly Burford
Molly Burford is a mental health advocate and wellness book author with almost 10 years of experience in digital media.