The Medical Dangers of Kissing

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Research about some of the risk that comes from osculation
compiled by Ernest Ersatz, Improbable Research staff

Kissing can be a dangerous enterprise. These studies attempt to clarify some of the dangers.

Pleasure Not Untainted (1)
“Food Allergies and Kissing,” Rosemary Hallett, Lori Haapanen, and Suzanne Teuber, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 346, no. 23, June 6, 2002, pp. 1833-1834. The authors, at the University of California, Davis, report:

[T]here are rare reports of transmission of allergens through kissing. We were recently surprised by the number of people in our data base of subjects with food allergies who spontaneously reported such reactions....

Reactions began rapidly after the kiss in all interviewed subjects (all in less than one minute). All 17 reported localized itching and swelling or urticaria in the area kissed. Four subjects reported the development of wheezing with at least one episode of kissing. Patient 5 was kissed on the cheek by his mother right after she tasted pea soup on the stove and a large wheal immediately developed at the exact site of the kiss, followed in minutes by flushing, urticaria, angioedema, and severe wheezing, requiring the administration of epinephrine in the emergency department.

Pleasure Not Untainted (2)
“Drug Allergy Transmitted by Passionate Kissing,” G. Liccardi, J. Gilder, M. D’Amato, and G. D’Amato, Lancet, vol. 359, no. 9318, May 11, 2002, p.1700. (Thanks to Bruce Townley for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at “A Cardarelli” Hospital???, Naples, Italy, report:

[T]he patient had mild itching and oedema of the lips, and moderate cutaneous itching and swelling about 30 min after making love with her husband.... The patient’s husband used a condom as contraception, thus, the only contact between the mucosae of the couple was kissing.

The Danger of Kissing Toads
“The Danger of Kissing Toads: Fire-Bellied Toad Exposure and Assessment Parameters in Children,” K. Henricksen, Journal of Emergency Nursing, vol. 25, no. 3, June 1999, pp. 235-723. The author, at Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, reports:

Two-and-a-half-year-old Jared came into his parents’ room at midnight with his eyes swollen shut, crying that his eyes and mouth were burning. His mother checked the house and found a chair pulled up to the aquarium where fire-bellied toads were kept.

Zoonoses in the Bedroom
“Zoonoses in the Bedroom,” Bruno B. Chomel and Ben Sun, Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 17, no. 2, February 2011, pp. 167-172. The authors, at the University of California, Davis, report:

The estimated percentage of pet owners who allow dogs and cats on their beds is 14%-62%. However, public health risks, including increased emergence of zoonoses, may be associated with such practices.

A Medical Effect of Pet-Kissing
“Pasteurella multocida Meningitis Caused by Kissing Animals: A Case Report and Review of the Literature,” Shoji Kawashima, Noriyuki Matsukawa, Yoshino Ueki, Manabu Hattori, and Kosei Ojika, Journal of Neurology, vol. 257, no. 4, April 2010, pp. 653-654. The authors, at Nagoya City University, Japan, report:

[T]he identification of a patient as a pet lover should alert physicians to the possibility of Pasteurella infection.

To Kiss a Chicken
“Four Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks,” Centers for Disease Control announcement, July 1, 2015. The report involves chicks and ducklings:

Many ill people in these outbreaks reported bringing the live poultry into their homes, and others reported kissing or cuddling with the live poultry. These behaviors increase a person’s risk of a Salmonella infection.


This article is republished with permission from the July-August 2016 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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