It's not fair: now even kissing is bad for you
Tough times for teens with the news in the British Medical Journal that French kissing with lots of people is bad for your health.
Although the BMJ talks, rather like a wide-eyed maiden aunt, of 'intimate kissing' with 'multiple partners', the message is clear. Heavy snogging almost quadruples the risk of meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial form of meningitis. Bacteria, of course, can be transmitted from person to person. Meningococcal disease can kill and is particularly dangerous in adolescence. Throughout the 1990s, teens in both the US and UK have been going down with the disease in 'dramatically' increasing numbers although, says the BMJ, 'little is known about the risk factors' in adolescents.
The research team examined potential risk and protective factors in 15-19 year olds who had been admitted to hospital with meningococcal disease in six regions of England from January 1999 to June 2000. Each case was compared with a matched control. Blood samples and nose and throat swabs were taken and data on potential risk factors were gathered by confidential interview.
Intimate kissing with multiple partners, a history of preceding illness, and being a student conferred higher risk of disease, whereas recent attendance at a religious event (presumably there's not a lot of kissing at these) and — surprise, surprise - meningococcal vaccination were associated with lower risk.
Of course, this doesn't mean that going to church on Sunday morning will eliminate the risks you took on Saturday night. These questions are guides to general lifestyle rather than causes of or cures for the bacteria.
Philip Kirby, Chief Executive, Meningitis Trust said: 'This research helps to highlight why students are the second most 'at risk' group for meningococcal disease. In the general population about 10% of people carry the meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats, but in the student age group we know that this can increase to 30% due to their increased social interaction. The study reinforces the need for continued awareness. Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis can save lives.'
Linda Glennie of the Meningitis Research Foundation agreed. 'I don't expect teenagers to become nuns and monks for the duration of their university career, but I would encourage them to be aware of the symptoms.'
Common symptoms of Meningococcal disease:
- high temperature/fever
- sometimes cold hands and feet
- vomiting, perhaps diarrhoea
- severe headache
- joint and muscle pains, stomach cramps
- stiff neck
- dislike of bright lights
- feeling disorientated
The researchers concede that behaviour-based health promotion messages are likely to have little impact in reducing the risk of disease. The development of further effective meningococcal vaccines therefore remains a key public health priority, they conclude.
Page created on February 10th, 2006
Page updated on January 16th, 2010