STDs Expert Forum
Short lip tot lip kiss, risk of syphilis
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Short lip tot lip kiss, risk of syphilis


Hope you can help me and my translation is okay. Yesterday i visited a prostitute at her home. Upon entering I received an unexpected hello kiss on my mouth (no tongue!) just maybe 2 seconds.

With the kis I felt something hard ... probably a pimple, but can also be a cold sore or a scab I really do not know, I could even have imagined me but it scared me a lot.
Do not know whether it was on her lips or just above it went so fast. I did not see something on her lips although it was a little dark.
Nevertheless I did not want to take any further risk so 1 minute later I was outside and nothing happened.

Could i got a STD from that few seconds lip to lip kiss? I mean in particular Syphilis (or is this usually in the mouth?) and if so what is the risk (serious risk or like winning the lotery?)

My lip is a little scale now but that will be a combination of the weather and continuous being busy with it, I am really really worried.

Thanks in advance! A lot!

Welcome to the forum.  Thanks for your question.  It's an opportunity for me to write a blog-like response that will be useful to respond to similar questions in the future.

The bottom line is that there is no significant risk of syphilis or any other STD from your brief kiss.  Here is why.

They call them STDs because sex is required for transmission.  In terms of how these particular bacteria and viruses evolved (simultaneously with human evolution and sexual practices), that almost always required genital (or anal-genital) intercourse.  More recently, oral-genital sex has come into the mix.  Some of the STD bugs are potentially transmissible by oral sex, others much less so.

And then there is kissing.  Of course kissing has been with humans for innumerable generations, and so have STDs -- and with very few exceptions, STDs have not been transmitted that way.  The viruses and bacteria are much better adapted to the anal and genital areas than to the mouth and oral cavity.

So for those biological reasons, you would expect there to be little risk.  In addition, the STDs transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, like herpes, HPV, and syphilis, require more than superficial contact.  The organisms have to be massaged into the tissues.  Hence, even if there are rare cases of herpes or syphilis transmitted by prolonged, open mouth ("French") kissing (and indeed, even these are very rare), a quick peck on the lips or cheek carries no risk at all.  Having chapped or irritated lips makes little or no difference.

And finally, in judging STD transmission risks, we always take into account the probability that a partner is infected.  Syphilis currently is quite rare in the US, with only about 20,000 new cases every year in the entire United States -- a very low number in a country the size of the US.  (Even new HIV infections are 3 times more frequent.)  And even this small number occurs mostly (60-65%) in men who have sex with men.  The few heterosexual cases are heavily concentrated in a few geographic areas (especially southern and eastern inner cities, and along the US-Mexico border) and in racial and ethnic minorities.  The frequency of syphilis in the average commercial sex worker currently is very low, probably under 1 chance in a few thousand your partner had it.  And for the reasons above, even if she did, your risk still is zero or close to it.

If you're in a country other than the US, the risks might be slightly higher or lower.  But all things considered, you simply should not worry at all about any STD from the kiss.  Any risk there was from your encounter with the sex worker comes entirely from what else you did sexually -- for example, whether you had vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and whether or not you used a condom.

I hope this has helped.  Best wishes--  HHH, MD
Thanks for your extensive explanation. More than a kiss on the lips (no open) did not happen, the only thing It hougt was get out of here. It seems like 'lucky me' in this case.

I am glad it was not a stupid question and you saw it as a oppurtunity to write this blog-response. Best wishes from West-Europe and happy holidays.
Thanks for the kind words.  Take care.
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University of Washington
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