How Bad Is It to Kiss Someone When They Have a Cold?

Updated: Oct. 11, 2022

A good smooch is a nice thing with the right someone, but should you still pucker up if they're under the weather?

Having a cold may not be the end of the world, but it sure does feel like that sometimes. Especially when it just hits you, and your body aches, your nose can’t stop running, and the sneezes never end. In that sorry state, a hot cup of tea, a bowl of homemade chicken soup, and a kiss from a loved one would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Still, you wonder if giving your loved one a kiss is a good idea because you could be subjecting him or her to a mouth full of germs, followed by a week of incessant coughing and sneezing.

However, the real risk of passing a germ comes from something even more G-rated than a kiss. “Contrary to what you might think, you’re actually at a higher risk of catching a cold by holding someone’s hand than by kissing them,” explains Andy Barnett, MD, an emergency medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon.

According to Dr. Barnett, the cold virus is found in the mucus that travels through your respiratory system and is most commonly spread by coughing and sneezing. If you are severely ill with a cold, it is a possibility that some germs can stay within your saliva and might be spread by kissing or sharing a glass. The risk also is contingent on the type of kiss you are giving. If it is just a simple dry peck on the cheek, the risk of contracting the virus is very low.

However, if you decide to be romantic while you’re sickly and exchange body fluids, then there is a greater possibility of passing the virus along. You may want to avoid super-close snuggling—along with these 14 other risky germ-spreading behaviors—since some viruses are airborne.

To prevent passing along a cold, cover your mouth when you cough, preferably with your elbow or a tissue. “Your hands and fingers can more easily pass viruses if you cough or sneeze into them,” says Barnett. You should also wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Wash them for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing or hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end two times through. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Want to avoid catching a cold virus in the first place? Wash your hands regularly and disinfect surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, toys, and remote controls. Also try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. A virus can enter your body this way and make you sick. To ramp up your defense even more and stay healthy all season long, consider these 50 ways to avoid catching a cold this season.

If you wind up coming down with cold symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, and cough, follow expert advice to get well soon. Try these 8 things doctors and nurses do to stop a cold in its tracks.