hookah
August 24, 2007 7:18 PM   Subscribe

What are the chances of contracting an STD from using a hookah (without a mouthpiece) with a group of people?
posted by jne1813 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
In principle, oral herpes can be communicated that way.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:31 PM on August 24, 2007


Um, what orifice were you smoking through? Wouldn't it just be like sharing a drinking glass with several people? I don't know of any STDs that are contracted that kind of "casual contact." There could be something I don't know about the hookah-using experience, I guess.
posted by sneakin at 7:33 PM on August 24, 2007


True, Steve C. Den Beste, but not the STD kind of herpes. Right?
posted by sneakin at 7:34 PM on August 24, 2007


I was thinking an oral std.
posted by jne1813 at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2007


My intuition is that anything that can be transmitted via saliva (kissing or sharing food for example) could be transmittable via hookah smoking. (Note that IANAMD)

The CDC seems to agree with me (see the second bullet from the bottom). They also cite a journal article which makes that claim, but since I haven't dug up the full text of the article I don't know the percentages.
posted by NormieP at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2007




You can get oral herpes by doing oral sex on someone with active genital herpes, and you can get genital herpes by being given oral sex by someone with active oral herpes.

And oral herpes can pass from one person to another on shared utensils.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:27 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your chances are virtually nil. They are less, even, then your chances of contracting an STD by kissing, which is also very, very unlikely.

Diseases such as Hep C and B and HIV can, theoretically, be spread through oral-oral contact, if both people involved have sores in their mouth, allowing blood-to-blood contact. But this is a theoretical and extremely difficult possibility. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single documented case of this in the literature. When you have a hookah mouth-piece passing between people, it's being exposed to air in between users, which greatly decreases the likelihood of a virus suriving to infect you. Outside of their ideal environment of human blood, these virus do not survivee; that's why they are only transmitted through acts of extreme body-fluid comingling.

As far as the possibility of one of your hookah-pals having contracted genital herpes from oral sex, and passing that on, this is also very unlikely. I haven't been able to find any documentation of HSV-2 (genital herpes) being transmitted from mouth-to-mouth contact as Mr. Beste suggests. And once again, the herpes viruses are extremely fragile when exposed to air, with no evidence existing that transmission via an inanimate object is possible.
posted by bookish at 9:38 PM on August 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


except for herpes, i would think slim.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:47 PM on August 24, 2007


I am an HIV-AIDS educator; I go around to dorms at my college and give little presentations about safe sex and being accepting and hand out condoms and what-have-you. I get questions like this a lot, and it's always strange answering them.

Because, as some people have pointed out, some diseases in the 'STD' category could, theoretically, given totally bizarro circumstances and crazy odds, could happen. But you're more likely to get struck by lightening tomorrow than get hepititis sharing a hookah.
posted by bookish at 9:49 PM on August 24, 2007


Depends where you stick it.

However, as people have said here, there are orally-transmitted diseases that you could get. Likely mononucleosis, very unlikely much else.

In any case, 'STD' is the wrong term for what you are talking about unless you're doing it wrong.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:04 PM on August 24, 2007


I'm not a fan of the hookah or tobacco smoking in general, but I've done it a few times, and I say your chances of catching Terminal Lameness from actually using the hookah mouthpiece are much greater.

And remember that overavoidance of commonplace germs is probably about as bad for you as overexposure to them.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:11 PM on August 24, 2007


And oral herpes can pass from one person to another on shared utensils.

Only "in principle," which you seem to have dropped from your first comment. In fact, the likelihood is very close to nil. The page Steven himself links states it nicely:

There are no documented cases of infection via an inanimate object (e.g. a towel, toilet seat etc.) although such infection is theoretically possible but highly unlikely due to the fragility of the virus itself.

A very tiny theoretical possibility is not quite the same as "oral herpes can pass from one person to another on shared utensils." jne1813, it's really not something to worry about.
posted by mediareport at 10:11 PM on August 24, 2007


It depends on what kind of people you are smoking the hookah with. Hookahs at respectable teahouses will always give you a brand new mouthpiece and even extras if you don't want to share with the other people at your table. If you are going to a place that doesn't give you a new disposable mouthpiece then maybe refuse to smoke the shisha?
posted by JJ86 at 6:35 AM on August 25, 2007


You can get oral herpes by doing oral sex on someone with active genital herpes, and you can get genital herpes by being given oral sex by someone with active oral herpes.

Clarification - nothing has to be "active" - most cases of herpes are transmitted asymptomatically (see asymptomatic viral shedding). There need not be blisters or sores present for transmission to occur.
posted by tristeza at 8:22 AM on August 25, 2007


There might be some 'make a tube out of your fingers' seal technique you could use if you're really worried about getting mono from your smoking partners...

I'd be more concerned about the tobacco. It's so tasty, yet so evil.
posted by anthill at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2007


A FOAF of mine claimed to have gotten scarlet fever (strep) from sharing beer glasses— a brief google suggests that this anecdote is pretty unlikely but not impossible.

Hep B is supposed to be fairly stable outside the body, and there are many cases of hep A apparently being spread at restaurants.

It seems to me that any disease that can be transmitted by casual mouthpiece-sharing is probably not going to be thought of as an "STD", but that's more about the social definition of "STD" than about the disease itself.
posted by hattifattener at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2007


I'd be more concerned about the tobacco. It's so tasty, yet so evil.
posted by anthill at 2:01 PM on August 25 [+] [!]


Excellent point! You seem to be primarily worried about the very remote chance of catching something labelled an "STD," simply because of the stigma, yet are completely ignoring the much more serious risk of various cancers.
posted by footnote at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2007


If it were even remotely possible, millions of people would have used it as an excuse by now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:35 PM on August 25, 2007


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