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STI or STD from Oral Sex: What is the Risk of Unprotected Oral?



Despite some outdated misconceptions, sex doesn’t need to include penetration. And if you are having any kind of sex, then you should be thinking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), because yes, you can get an STI from oral sex. (Quick note: many people use STIs and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) interchangeably, but the two are different. Diseases are advanced infections that exhibit symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.) 

STIs are extremely common, with roughly 1 in 5 people in the U.S. having a sexually transmitted infection at some point during the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And having oral sex, which involves using the mouth to stimulate the genitals, doesn’t somehow reduce your risk of contracting an STI, Peter Leone, MD, a professor of medicine for the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina, tells SELF. “It’s a really common mode of transmission,” he says.

That may sound unsettling, but remember, there are ways to reduce your STI risk that does not involve giving up fellatio, cunnilingus, or anilingus. Here, experts explain how you can keep on keeping on.

Why can you get an STI from oral sex?

In short, for the same reason that you get an infection from penetrative sex. STI-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites can gain entry into your body through mucosal membranes1, which produce mucus and line numerous body cavities, such as the mouth, lips, anus, vagina, and eyes.

“I think people may forget or potentially ignore the fact that you’re still making contact with someone’s genitals during oral sex. There’s potential for exposure that way,” Anna Powell, MD, MS, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells SELF.


Just to be really clear, you can get an STI if you’re giving or receiving oral sex as long as your partner is infected. It’s hard to compare the STI risk of penetrative sex to oral sex since many people engage in both, according to the CDC. (And a person’s STD risk really depends on a variety of factors including the number of sex acts performed and how many partners they have.)

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What STI symptoms should I watch for?

Numerous STIs can be transmitted through oral sex, so symptoms, when present, vary depending on the specific infection. Specifically, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), trichomoniasis, hepatitis, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be spread through oral sex. Here’s what to know about each.


This bacterial infection can be really stealthy because it’s often asymptomatic. When symptoms do appear, you’ll generally notice signs within two weeks from the time of the infection2. If chlamydia affects your genitals, you might experience white, green, or yellow vaginal discharge (it might smell bad, too), random bleeding between periods, itching or burning in or around your vagina, and burning when you pee, among other signs. Or, you may have a sore throat if the infection affects your throat, according to the CDC.

If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which happens when an infection spreads to your reproductive organs, potentially leading to infertility.


If your partner has oral chlamydia, they can spread it to your genitals or anus through oral sex. You can also get it in your own throat from performing oral on your partner’s penis, vagina, or anus, according to the CDC.


Gonorrhea, another bacterial infection, is similar to chlamydia in a few ways, including its ability to fly under the radar without causing many (or any) symptoms. (Chlamydia and gonorrhea often occur together, so if you think you have one, your doctor may test you for both just in case, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).)

Source: Self

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