- Some infections can potentially be spread when giving or receiving oral sex.
- Genital herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are among some of the most common sexually transmitted infections that one can contract from having oral sex.
- Some sexually transmitted infections are hard to detect because they do not cause obvious symptoms in those who have them.
Although it’s not always included in the conversation about safe sex, having oral sex comes with some risks. There are many common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that a person can contract from giving or receiving oral sex.
Keep in mind that although knowing the signs and symptoms can be useful, the only way to receive a proper diagnosis of and treatment for an infection is by visiting a doctor or healthcare professional.
Here are eight STIs that can be transmitted during oral sex.
Genital herpes can cause pain or itching
Genital herpes is one of the many infections you can contract from oral sex, said Dr. J. Dennis Fortenberry, professor of pediatrics and at Indiana University School of Medicine.
“There are two types of herpes viruses that can cause infections and one is more commonly associated with the mouth and lips,” Fortenberry told INSIDER. “That means that one person having oral sex with another person can give either one of these kinds of viruses to their partner or their partner can give the infection to them. It doesn’t really matter who is giving or receiving oral sex, the transmission can go either way.”
Fortenberry, who also serves as the chief of the section of adolescent medicine at Indiana University, said that you may not always be able to see herpes breakouts, but the virus can cause itching or slight pain. This irritation is sometimes followed by bumps and blisters that can be very tiny and show up in clusters, he explained.
“Usually, with the blister, it will burst and turn into a sore. That’s what we call an ulcer. Typically, it’s about the size of an eraser,” he told INSIDER. “It can take a week or to for it all to process. And, the sores often come back, usually in the same area.”
Although there is currently no cure for genital herpes, antiviral medications can help to manage and shorten outbreaks of it, according to the CDC.
Gonorrhea doesn’t always come with obvious symptoms
Fortenberry said that gonorrhea is one of the more common infections you can get from oral sex. But he also said it’s common for this infection to go undetected – many people with gonorrhea-related throat infections experience no symptoms at all.
“Gonorrhea can be transmitted from someone’s genitals to a person’s throat. In some circumstances, it can be transmitted from a person’s throat to another person’s genitals,” he said. “Most often, it would be from someone’s throat to someone’s genitals.”
If caught early, gonorrhea can be treated and cured using antibiotics, according to The Mayo Clinic.
Chlamydia is another infection that may not be easy to detect
Chlamydia is also a common STI that can be contracted from oral sex. Fortenberry said this infection can sometimes be hard to detect since those with chlamydia don’t always exhibit symptoms.
“We aren’t even really sure how often people get throat infections with chlamydia, but we know it happens,” he said. “Certainly, if someone has a genital infection of chlamydia and they have oral sex with a partner they could give them an infection in the throat of chlamydia.”
If caught early and properly treated with antibiotics, most cases of chlamydia can be cured within a week, according to WebMD.
Syphilis can cause sores
Syphilis can be spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and it is highly contagious. When contracted orally, syphilis can cause sores within one’s mouth, according to Fortenberry.
“Syphilis is a common infection that can be transmitted from genitals to anywhere in the mouth like lips, gums, the roof of the mouth, and back part of the throat,” said Fortenberry. “It tends to be just one sore and it doesn’t usually have any pain at all. Although, sometimes it is mildly uncomfortable.”
When caught early, syphilis can typically be cured using medication, according to the CDC. But if left untreated for a prolonged period of time, syphilis can potentially cause brain damage, paralysis, or blindness, according to Planned Parenthood.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted during certain types of oral sex
“HIV can be transmitted from oral-genital sex in fellatio if there is ejaculation into the mouth and throat. That probably increases the likelihood of that infection happening,” he told INSIDER. “But, it can happen even without ejaculation.”
Although there is currently no widespread cure for HIV, certain medications and treatments can help to treat symptoms of the virus and help those with HIV live longer, healthier lives, according to AIDS Info, an official US Department of Health and Human Services website.
Hepatitis A, B, and C can all be transmitted through oral sex
Fortenberry said that it’s possible to contract all forms of hepatitis during oral sex. Hepatitis is when your liver becomes inflamed due to an infection and it comes in a few different forms including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
“This is because almost any exposure to body fluids in people who have those viruses can be infectious,” he said. “No one knows for sure how much Hepatitis C transmission is associated with oral-genital sex, but it does have some possibility.”
Hepatitis A infections can commonly clear up on their own but those who have it may want to seek medical attention and carefully monitor their symptoms. Neither Hepatitis B nor Hepatitis C currently has a widespread cure and both typically require long-term treatment.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasitic infection
Trichomoniasis or “trich” is caused by an infection from a parasite that is typically found in the genital area. Fortenberry said that although it’s a bit rare for this disease to pass from one’s genitals to another’s mouth, it could happen.
“Most people don’t consider trichomoniasis to be having important transmission through oral-genital sex,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened in the history of the world, but most people don’t see it as a commonplace.”
According to the CDC, this infection can typically be cured with a single dose of antibiotics.
In some cases, someone who is giving oral sex can contract an infection from bacteria if it is present near their partner’s anal or genital region
Fortenberry also noted out that there are other harmful bacteria that can be sometimes located around the anus that can be indirectly transmitted during oral sex.
“Those types of infections can sometimes be transmitted from oral-genital sex that’s made include some contact with the skin or tissue around the anus,” said Fortenberry. “Our genitals and anus are very close together… I think most people don’t think of [this bacteria] as being transmitted by oral sex, but it is within that category.”
In particular, he said that some people may have salmonella or shigella bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract and this bacteria can show up around their anus. When contracted, the bacteria can cause someone to have diarrhoea and other symptoms.
If your partner is experiencing diarrhoea as a result of shigella or salmonella, the CDC recommends waiting until this and other symptoms of the infection subside before engaging in any type of oral sex. And those who may have already contracted the bacteria may want to seek medical attention and carefully monitor their fluid levels.
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