You’ve probably heard that kissing can get you sick. You’re right.
According to a study cited by BBC News, one kiss shared between couples exchanges 80 million bacteria (yikes!). And couples who kiss at least nine times a day “share communities of oral bacteria,” the study said.
The researchers, which surveyed 21 heterosexual couples about their kissing behaviors, took swabs of the participants’ mouths and recorded the data. Then, one person in each couple drank a “probiotic drink containing species such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria” before kissing their partners again. The researchers concluded that nearly 100 million bacteria transfer between partners after 10 seconds of kissing.
With flu season in full swing, you and your partner may want to avoid kissing and, therefore, transferring millions of bacteria to each other. Here are seven alternatives to kissing that will keep you healthy this winter.
Send them an emoji
Kissing someone without physically kissing them might be as easy as sending them a kissy face emoji.
New York Magazine’s Adam Sternbergh said there are a variety of kissing or intimate emojis for you and your partner to use, like the “Kissing Face,” the “Kissing Face with Closed Eyes,” and even the “Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes.” Sternbergh wrote emojis are a language everyone can understand, which makes them a true way to share emotion when you can’t touch or be near the person you care about.
“We blow each other kisses. We smile with hearts in our eyes. We cry tears of joy,” Sternberg wrote. “We say ‘I love you,’ but in a million different ways, each one freighted with the particular meaning we hope fervently to convey, then send them out hopefully, like a smiley face in a bottle, waiting to be received by the exact person it was intended for, and opened up, and understood completely.”
Elbows, shoulders and feet
Next time you want to kiss your significant other, share some elbow love.
According to ABC News, elbow-bumps are better than high-fives and handshakes in winter when you’re looking to avoid bacteria or germs. Too many germs rest on the hands for a handshake or high-five. Hand shakes and high-fives also require hands to touch, giving bacteria and germs time to transfer between two people.
“So during flu season think of mixing up the way you say hello. For those who want to be really careful, an elbow bump is even better,” ABC News reported.
The shoulder bump is also an adequate option, as well as slapping your feet together. Footsies, anyone?
The fist-bump is OK, too
Don’t shake someone’s hand if you’re worried about germs. The fist bump is a better option.
According to a study from the American Journal of Infection Control cited by USA Today, quick fist bumps will transmit little to no bacteria. The study had one scientist dump their hand in bacteria, while another researcher didn’t. The two then high-fived, shook and fist bumped each other to check the results.
“The shakes transmitted about 10 times more bacteria than the fist bumps and about two times more than the high-fives,” USA Today reported. “The longest, firmest shakes transmitted the most.”
So if you don’t feel like looking awkward with an elbow-high-five, might as well try the subtle, tasteful and quick fist bump.
Just say ‘I love you’ (or however you feel)
Telling someone how you feel about them is a good alternative to kissing, mostly because it can improve your health both mentally and physically, according to a study from Arizona State University.
The study first looked at how kissing improves a person’s well-being. But then it found that just expressing your feelings to someone else leads to “lower stress hormones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system,” the study said.
ASU professor Kory Floyd said that telling someone you love them is as beneficial as hugging, kissing and snuggling together.
Try a hug
You’d think all physical touch, like kissing, could make you sick, but hugging has the opposite effect on people. According to research from the University of Vienna cited by The Daily Mail, hugs can lower blood pressure, improve memory and reduce stress and anxiety. Hugs also increase bonding between couples, the research found.
The studies mentioned earlier discuss the amount of bacteria that can be found on a person’s hands. Hugging, however, is body-to-body contact, where less bacteria sits. So with a hug, you’re killing two birds with one stone -- making yourself healthier and improving your relationship.
Use a code word or phrase
OK, so you don’t want to kiss. But maybe you say, “Kiss you,” “Kisses,” or “Kisses, schmookins!”
Using corny code words make relationships more successful, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships cited by NBC News. Couples who use cute nicknames for each other make your relationship more satisfying and increase bonding between partners.
“You are saying, symbolically, that you care enough about the other person and the relationship to develop your own way of speaking,” said Carol Bruess, Ph.D., the director of family studies at the University of St. Thomas, to NBC News. “You’ve got your own private world, your own mini culture.”
Kissing without kissing is so simple with the Couple app. Formerly known as Pair, the app allows couples to share a “thumbkiss,” where partners press their individual cell phone screens at the same spot simultaneously, according to VentureBeat.
“If you both tap the same spot on the screen, your phone will vibrate,” VentureBeat reported. “Adorable? Maybe. Hilarious? Absolutely.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @herbscribner