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Nurse Mary: Is a Kiss Ever Just a Kiss?

By: Mary A. Drobnak RN, BSN

Ahh, the infamous kiss. It can be a simple greeting, sign of adoration and, of course, many forms of love. Over the centuries the kiss has gone from a private luxury to a daily interaction and a social, as well as personal, way to communicate one’s feelings of friendship, respect and love for each other.

A kiss comes with variety of associated health benefits. Kissing releases calming brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) reducing stress levels and soothing the mind, warding off the blues and depression. Sensations aroused during passionate kisses send messages to the brain causing the body to produce oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. Along with natural endorphins, these hormones and neurotransmitters rush through your body causing the euphoria most people experience with a passionate kiss.

In addition, the adrenal glands release epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) into the blood causing the heart to pump faster and blood vessels to dilate, meaning your whole body receives more oxygen. An amazing 13 muscles are used during a passionate kiss and according to one study, kissing will generally burn up to two to three calories per minute! Another study even associated decreased cholesterol levels with kissing regularly.

Along with the benefits of kissing come some health concerns as well. Kissing can easily spread germs from one person to the other. Everyone should be aware that the mouth is inherently a germy place. Bacteria and viruses most commonly transmitted during a kiss through saliva can cause a host of illnesses including the common cold/flu, glandular fever (mononucleosis), herpes virus, warts, bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and even tooth decay. Other diseases worth mentioning, although more rare, can also be transmitted through oral contact such as Hepatitis B, meningococcal disease and even lower risk HIV when infected blood is passed via the mouth through inflamed, bloody gums.

Using common sense and thinking ‘prevention’ is always the smart way to avoid contracting any illness. Avoid kissing when either person is sick or has an active cold sore, wart or ulcer around the lips or in the mouth. Maintaining good oral hygiene (flossing and brushing) is essential for a healthy mouth, teeth and gums. As the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being aware is the key to good health. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day and healthy kissing!

Send Nurse Mary your health questions and concerns at [email protected]


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