Can You Get Chlamydia from Kissing?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
October 6, 2021

Misinformation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause you to miss out on an active, healthy sexual life and simply inconvenience you.

You may avoid certain activities that don’t pose any risk, even things as common as sharing food, sitting on a toilet, or kissing.

In the case of chlamydia, a common belief is that you can get the infection from kissing.

But a life without locking lips seems pretty impossible, especially if you want any kind of intimacy. 

To clear up the facts, in this article, I’ll explain how chlamydia spreads as well as what viruses and diseases you can catch from kissing.

Then I’ll describe the symptoms of and treatment for chlamydia before wrapping up with how to prevent an infection.

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How Does Chlamydia Spread? 

Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium is most commonly spread by having vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex with an infected person without using barrier methods (a.k.a. protection) such as condoms.

And yes, if you have unprotected sex with a male partner, you can get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate.

Same goes if you share sex toys without cleaning them: If you or your partner(s) is infected, you can spread chlamydia.

You can also get chlamydia more than once.

You can either get a new chlamydia infection after a successful treatment, or if you do not complete the full course of treatment, your infection may not fully clear.

Because of this, if you do not finish your treatment and are sexually active, you can spread chlamydia.

In rare cases, you can get chlamydia in your eye if you happen to have infected fluids on your hand and touch your eye.

Chlamydia can also be spread to a baby during a vaginal birth if the mother has an infection.

On the other hand, chlamydia is not spread through saliva or casual contact, so you cannot get chlamydia from kissing, sharing food or drinks, sitting on the toilet, hugging, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing.

The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What Can You Catch from Kissing? 

While you can’t contract chlamydia from kissing, you can catch several other common STDs/STIs (sexually transmitted infections) this way.

This includes: 

  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)
  • HIV (if both partners have sores or bleeding gums and you kiss open-mouthed)
  • Syphilis (if an open wound comes in contact with a sore on the lips or in the mouth)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • HPV (if you French kiss)

Aside from STDs, kissing may also spread germs associated with other conditions including:

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Due to its often asymptomatic nature, chlamydia is known as a “silent” infection. If symptoms do occur, they may only appear weeks after the initial exposure.

Symptoms vary based on where the infection is located but most commonly involve: 

  • Pain or burning sensation while peeing
  • Pain during sex (in women)
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge with a strong smell
  • Abnormal penile discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Swollen or tender testicles
  • Pain, discharge, and/or bleeding around the rectum/anus

Treatment

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection and can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Your doctor may prescribe one of the following medications:

  • Azithromycin (Zithromax)
  • Doxycycline (Oracea)
  • Erythromycin (Erygel)
  • Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
  • Ofloxacin (Floxin)

With any antibiotics, follow the dosage instructions closely and take the full course of medication, even if your symptoms go away.

If you stop taking antibiotics early, the infection may not fully clear and instead can come back. 

Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to long-term health problems such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic pain, and other complications, particularly in women.

So see a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Prevention

The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Condoms and dental dams help lower your chances of getting an STD if you do have sex, but they are not 100% effective.

To prevent the spread of chlamydia if you have been infected, wait to have any sexual contact until seven days after taking the single dose of antibiotics or after completion of all seven days of the multi-dose medication.

Because it is somewhat common to get a repeat infection of chlamydia, it’s a good idea to be tested for it again about three months after treatment.

It is also important to make sure that your sexual partner is treated to prevent reinfection from them.

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Safe kissing tips

There is no need to give up kissing for the sake of your health, but there are a few things you can do to make it a little safer for yourself and your partner.

Communication is key: Discuss these things with your partner before you engage in any kind of sexual activity, and don’t be afraid to get tested or ask your partner to get tested for any STD.

  • Avoid kissing when you or the other person is sick.
  • Avoid kissing anyone on the lips when either of you has an active cold sore, warts, or ulcers around the lips or in the mouth.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene and sexual health.

If you’re concerned that you or your sexual partner may have chlamydia or another type of STD, contact your healthcare provider right away to get a chlamydia test. 

How K Health Can Help

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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.