Could This Sore Throat be an STD?
Oral STDs often don’t show any signs at all or can be easily mistaken for something else. Possible symptoms include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, flu-like symptoms, and sores in the mouth or throat. The long-term effects of an oral infection are not as serious as those of a genital infection, but performing oral sex can spread the infection to your partners genitals and put them at serious risk. Without clearly recognizable symptoms, the only way to know if you have an oral infection is to be tested.
Oral STIs are transmitted by performing or receiving oral sex. Your saliva will usually break down the grand majority of harmful bacteria, but some infections can still take hold. The most common STDs that can be contracted orally are:
How to Stay Safe
While abstaining from oral sex altogether is the only sure way to avoid an oral STD, there are several ways to reduce the risk. Using condoms during oral sex is a great start. Condoms help to reduce the risk of mouth STIs being transmitted, but cannot eliminate them completely. Many STIs can actually be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. A condom simply cannot fully cover every possible area that is susceptible to infection.
A dental dam is a thin, rubbery barrier used to protect against oral STDs. Like a condom used for fellatio, this will allow safe oral stimulation. If you find yourself without a dental dam, cut a condom open into a rectangle, and carry on.
Know the Risk Factors
According the the CDC, these factors make individuals more susceptible to oral STDs:
- Unprotected oral sex
- Tooth decay, gum disease, bleeding gums, and oral cancer
- Sores in the mouth or on the genitals/anus
- Oral exposure to pre-cum or cum
- Multiple sexual partners
Another reliable way to ward off oral STDs that doesn’t call for chastity is to be in a long term, monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for oral STDs.
Every sexually active person should get tested at regular intervals, but a genital test alone will leave oral infections undiagnosed. If you engage in oral sex, you also need regular extragenital testing to cover oral infections. An extragenital test uses a sample from your throat and rectum to determine if you have an infection in either area.
Any intimate activity, even kissing or oral sex, can potentially leave you open to an infection. Testing early and testing often is the fastest and most reliable way to stay free and clear of sexually transmitted infections. Get tested with our easy and discreet at home tests.
Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA
- Clinical Spectrum of Pharyngeal Gonococcal Infection. New England Journal of Medicine. 1973. .
- Prevalence, incidence and risk factors for pharyngeal chlamydia in the community based Health in Men (HIM) cohort of homosexual men in Sydney, Australia. Sexually Transmitted Infections. 2008. .
- A Prospective Study of New Infections with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2. New England Journal of Medicine. 1999. .