Written on October 25, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
Kissing is a common sign of affection across the world. Kissing can come in different forms, from simply “air-kissing,” where there is no contact, to a light peck on the cheeks, or to kisses that involve prolonged contact with the lips and an exchange of saliva. Kissing can potentially transmit various viral diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).[1-3] STDs identified in saliva that can be spread through kissing include HIV, hepatitis, and herpes. But can you get HPV from kissing as well? Continue to learn more about HPV and find out if you can get HPV from kissing someone who has the infection.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection. There is no single HPV virus, but a diverse group of HPV viruses that infects the skin and mucous membranes. There were approximately 43 million HPV infections reported in the United States in 2018. In 90% of cases, HPV goes away within two years on its own without causing any health issues. But, if HPV does not go away, it can cause serious health concerns. HPV has been linked to genital warts and cervical cancer in females. HPV can also cause other conditions, including throat cancer.
HPV is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with the virus. The most common way HPV is transmitted is during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can also be spread through close skin-to-skin touching during sexual activity. HPV can be passed from one person to another even if the infected person has no signs or symptoms.
One of the common questions people have is whether you can get HPV from kissing. This is a genuine concern because people kiss for many reasons, whether to express affection, intimacy, or a simple gesture of love. The short answer is yes and no. While light kissing is not likely to spread the virus, intimate open-mouth kissing with your sexual partner likely can.[6,7,8]
However, the evidence in the scientific literature remains limited and may not be strong enough to change practice. In a cohort study of men, researchers found that the prevalence of oral transmission of HPV was only 2.9%. The risk of HPV transmission increases if the individual has multiple partners who have oral sex and engage in open-mouth kissing. Individuals who engage in kissing also report sexual behaviors such as vaginal or oral sex, which complicates a direct association.
To reduce your risk of contracting or spreading HPV, it's crucial to practice safe sex. This includes using condoms or dental dams during sexual activity and getting vaccinated if you're eligible. Additionally, the HPV vaccine is highly effective at preventing the most common high-risk strains that can lead to cancers. HPV vaccination is recommended for all preteens and young adults to prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer. The vaccine is highly effective and has the potential to prevent 90% of HPV-attributable cancers.
If you find out you have an STD or have contracted HPV, there are a few ways you can stop the spread. Tell your sexual partners that you have the virus so that you can prevent the spread of the virus. Practice abstinence if you have visible signs of an infection, such as warts. Condom use can reduce virus transmission, but there can be areas on your body that the condom doesn’t cover.
If you think you may have been exposed to HPV or any other STDs, Everylwell offers online STD consults in two hours or less. The appointments are on-demand video calls with healthcare providers that can last up to 30 minutes. You can discuss the signs and symptoms you are experiencing, your medical and exposure history, and other relevant factors. You can also discuss any sexual health concerns you may have and get your questions answered. During the appointment, you will be provided a personalized recommendation plan based on your symptoms and history. This may include additional STD tests or prescription medication, if applicable.