Can you catch a cold by sharing a spoon?
June 18, 2012 4:22 AM Subscribe
How likely am I to catch an upper-respiratory illness through strictly oral/gastrointestinal means (like sharing utensils, etc.)?
posted by Bardolph to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always kind of assumed that the mouth environment is sufficiently different from respiratory membranes (pH, digestive enzymes) that it's probably relatively inhospitable to the kinds of microbes that cause common upper-respiratory tract infections, and that in any case objects that find their way into your saliva should mostly be washed into the stomach, not randomly drifted up into your sinuses or whatever. Therefore, I have maintained in the face of intense family opposition that it should be pretty safe to (for instance) share a glass or a donut with someone who has a cold (assuming washed hands), vs. rubbing your eyes with their tissues or standing around inhaling while they sneeze and cough.
Question, though: can anyone point me to any credible information that either supports or contradicts this belief? Ideally, let's exclude general-audience public-health websites from the "credible information" category on this one, since I'd expect those sorts of sites to err on the side of caution rather than maintaining strict fidelity to the hard evidence. PubMed would normally be my first stop, but the keywords here are pretty unhelpfully vague-- so if anyone can volunteer peer-reviewed studies, or, you know, in-depth explanations of the actual mechanisms that make transmission or non-transmission more plausible, I'd especially love to see those. Thanks so much!