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.)?

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!
posted by Bardolph to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sadly, I don't know Where I read it, but I did read in a creditable source (somewhere like Scientific American?) that the cold virus can't survive in the mouth, and that's why most transmission is via the hands. This made instant sense to me, because my boyfriend and I kiss frequently when we have colds, but don't often share the cold.
posted by ldthomps at 7:11 AM on June 18, 2012

You're probably right, but it still grosses people out. How hard is it to cut the donut or get out another glass?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:41 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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