If you are a sexually active person, you can be at risk for contracting STDs, and penetrative sex is not the only way STDs can be transmitted, because oral sex is also to blame for how several STDs are spread. Previously, we discussed how STDs can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, so this time we will focus on how oral sex is responsible for the spread of particular STDs and prevention methods people can take.
What is Oral Sex
There are many kinds of sexual activities, but the three types people often hear are vaginal sex, oral sex and anal sex. Oral sex revolves around using the mouth to excite and pleasure a sex partner on their genitals. Three types of oral sex include fellatio (stimulation of the male genitals), cunnilingus (stimulation of the female genitals) and anilingus (stimulation of the anus). Oral sex is a common practice among sexually active adults. However, it is important to remember that not everyone enjoys giving or receiving it as sex is very personal and unique to every person.
How STDs Spread Through Oral Sex
People who are exposed to an infected sexual partner can catch STDs in their throat, mouth, genital areas and even rectum. When giving oral sex to a sexual partner who is infected with a genital or anal infection, a person may contract a throat or mouth infection (particularly from performing fellatio). When receiving oral sex from a person with a mouth or throat infection, the receiver can catch STIs on the penis, vagina, anus or rectum. Bear in mind that it is possible for an infected person to have multiple infections in different areas (for example in the genitals and the mouth).
The risk of contracting of spreading an STD through oral sex depends of several factors such as the types of STD, types of sexual activity and the frequency or number of sex acts conducted. However, in general, these are the conditions that enable the transmission of STDs through oral sex:
- People can get certain STDs from performing oral sex on a partner who is infected on the genitals or anus
- People can contract certain STDs on their genitals and areas around them from receiving oral sex from a partner who has a mouth or throat infection
- It is possible for STDs to attack more than one area at the same time (for instance, you can have multiple infections in the throat and genitals)
- Particular STDs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and intestinal infections, when spread by oral sex, can escalate in the body
- Anilingus enables the transmission of hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Several intestinal parasites such as Giardia and Shigella can also be transferred through it.
- Not suffering from obvious symptoms does not automatically guarantee that you do not have STDs.
STDs That Can Be Spread Through Oral Sex
Four most common STDs that can be transmitted through oral sex include gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Gonorrhea, along with chlamydia, is one of the most common infectious sexual disease that happens because of bacteria. The bacteria that cause this disease are mostly discovered in penile and vaginal discharge. Besides getting spread from oral sex, gonorrhea can also be passed between people through unprotected anal and vaginal sex. The areas of initial infection include the throat, genitals, urinary tract and rectum. Most gonorrhea cases that occur in the throat have no symptoms. However, when symptoms are present, they can revolve around sore throat. Gonorrhea is highly curable with the help of antibiotics. However, keep in mind that throat infections are harder to cure compared to rectal or genital infections.
Genital herpes is an STD caused by herpes simplex virus. Two types of viruses cause this disease: HSV-1 and HSV-2. There is a link between oral herpes and genital herpes in which people suffering from oral herpes who give oral sex to an uninfected person may lead to that person developing genital herpes. Unlike gonorrhea, genital herpes is not curable. Generally, people can contract herpes if they make contact with a herpes sore, an infected person’s saliva and genital fluids as well as an infected person’s genital area and oral area. With herpes, the first outbreak is usually the worst. Although the symptoms can go away on their own after some time, blisters can come back (these are referred to as recurrence). The first time an outbreak occurs, people will likely be prescribed antiviral medicine to keep the symptoms from getting worse. People can also apply ointment or cream for the pain.
Similar to gonorrhea, syphilis is caused by bacteria. The risk of getting syphilis can come from performing oral sex on a partner that has a syphilis sore or rash on the genitals, receiving oral sex from a sexual partner with a sore or rash. Initial infections usually occur in these areas: lips, mouth, throat, genitals, anus and rectum. As with other STDs, syphilis may not always be accompanied with symptoms, but when symptoms are present, they normally come in the form of rash, sores and painless ulcers on the skin, mouth, throat and genitals. Syphilis is curable, but when left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as internal organ damages, blindness and the heightened risk of getting HIV.
Most HPV cases usually clear up on their own within 2 years. HPV actually refers to a group of viruses. Some strains of viruses are not hazardous and can cause genital warts while the hazardous ones are the culprit behind cervical cancer. One fact about HPV is that you do not need to have penetrative sex to catch it. Common infected areas include the mouth, throat, genitals, cervix, anus and rectum. HPV may have no symptoms but symptoms can manifest in warts (in the throat, anus or genital). PAP and HPV tests are definitive ways in which HPV can be accurately diagnosed in women. For men, however, HPV can only be observed through visual examinations to detect the presence of warts. Learn more about the difference in men and women when it comes to HPV.
How to avoid getting STDs from oral sex
Although there is always a chance to catch STDs, sexually active people can minimize the risks of getting one from oral sex by using condoms, dental dams and other protective methods every time they have oral sex.
Getting fully updated with your sexual health status is of the utmost importance. Shim Clinic is a sexual health clinic based in Singapore. We provide trustworthy diagnosis and treatment. We also specialize in STD prevention methods such as HPV vaccination (Gardasil 9) and preventive medications such as HIV PrEP and HIV PEP.