Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects both men and women. It’s treatable, but it can lead to serious complications if you don’t get treatment for it.

You can get chlamydia by having unprotected sex with an infected partner. A common misconception is that chlamydia is transferrable through kissing. Is this true? The short answer is, no.

The symptoms of chlamydia can include:

  • a burning sensation during urination
  • a smelly, abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis
  • an unusual sore on or around the genitals
  • swelling and pain in one or both testicles
  • rectal pain
  • anal bleeding
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • an eye infection or pneumonia in newborns

The symptoms may appear several weeks after you have sex with a person who has chlamydia. Most people who have chlamydia don’t have any symptoms.

The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis causes chlamydia. It can also cause other disorders, including:

You can’t transmit chlamydia through kissing, sharing drinking glasses, or hugging, but you can spread the disease:

  • through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has the disease
  • to your baby through childbirth if you’re pregnant and infected
  • during unprotected sex with a male partner even if he doesn't ejaculate

You can still contract chlamydia even if you had the disease previously and treated it. Visit your doctor right away if you or your partner notices any symptoms of chlamydia.

While kissing doesn’t transmit chlamydia, a number of other conditions can spread through kissing from saliva or open cuts around the mouth. Those conditions include:

  • the common cold and other viral infections
  • influenza
  • the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a common saliva-borne virus that can cause infectious mononucleosis
  • herpes simplex virus, which is commonly known as a cold sore or fever blister
  • hepatitis B, but only if there are abrasions or mouth sores caused by bites or trauma where blood can be exchanged
  • cytomegalovirus, which is a common virus that can infect anyone but rarely causes symptoms
  • tooth decay
  • meningitis, which is the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD, especially among women under 25 years old. It’s estimated that one in 20 sexually active women aged 14 to 24 years has chlamydia.

Chlamydia is sometimes painful and can cause serious health problems if you don’t get the proper treatment for it. In women, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes. This can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. It can lead to difficulty conceiving, infertility, or possible fatal ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb.

Untreated chlamydia may also increase your risk of contracting HIV.

Men rarely experience health problems related to chlamydia. Sometimes fever and pain can occur if the infection has spread to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles. Unlike in women, chlamydia generally won't impact a man's ability to have children.

If you suspect you have chlamydia, your doctor will order lab tests and may ask for a urine sample or vaginal cotton swab. If your test results are positive for chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Chlamydia typically goes away within one to two weeks. You should avoid sex during this time to prevent spreading the disease.

Your doctor may prescribe a one-dose medication or a medication you'll take daily for about a week. If they prescribe a one-dose pill, you should wait seven days before having sex again. If you’re taking medication for seven days, wait a week after the final dose before engaging in sexual activity.

You should also get tested again three months after you were treated for the disease, because repeat chlamydia infections are common.

The best way to prevent chlamydia infection is to avoid unprotected sex with someone who has the disease. Follow these tips to protect yourself against chlamydia:

  • Use condoms, either male latex condoms or female polyurethane, the right way every time you have sex. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure about the correct way to use a condom.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners you have to reduce your risk of exposure.
  • If you’re a woman, don't douche. Douching can increase your risk for infection because it reduces the number of good bacteria in the vagina.

Routine testing for chlamydia and other STDs, such as HIV and herpes, is also important for prevention, early detection, and treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises sexually active women under 25 years old to get screened for chlamydia every year.

Tips for safe kissing

Follow these tips to practice safe kissing and prevent infection:

  • Avoid kissing someone if either of you has open sores.
  • Avoid kissing someone if either of you has cuts in or around the mouth.
  • Avoid kissing someone when you're sick or if they're sick.
  • Don't bite during kissing.
  • Find other parts of the body to kiss instead of the lips, such as the cheek or hand.

Kissing doesn't have to be off-limits to prevent the spread of disease. If you temporarily avoid kissing or change the way you kiss during a bout of illness, you could lower your chances of getting or spreading an infection. The chances that you’ll contract a serious infection through kissing are low.

Q:

Are there sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that you can catch from kissing?

A:

The only established STD transmitted through kissing is herpes, which is caused by the herpes simplex virus. HIV may be transmitted through kissing if a cut or open sore exists, but this would be considered very rare.

Michael Weber, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.