Can Oral Sex Cause an STI?
Oral sex is the act of using the mouth to stimulate your partner’s genitals or genital region. There are three types of oral sex you can give or receive, which are:
- Fellatio (stimulating the penis)
- Cunnilingus (stimulating the clitoris)
- Anilingus (stimulating the anus)
Oral sex is a very common practice among sexually active teens and adults and is often considered a “safer” practice since it eliminates the possibility of pregnancy. But, even though the threat of pregnancy is reduced to zero when giving or receiving oral sex, there is still the threat of contracting an STI in the mouth or throat.
Why STIs Are Transmittable Through Oral Sex
No matter which type of oral sex you are performing, if you or your partner are infected with an STI, it is possible to either pass an infection to your partner or contract an infection from them. Each of the following scenarios is possible and common:
- Contracting an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips during fellatio with an infected penis
- Passing an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips to the penis
- Contracting an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips during cunnilingus with an infected vagina or vulva
- Passing an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips to the vagina or vulva
- Contracting an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips during anilingus with an infected anus or rectum
- Passing an infection in the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips to the anus or rectum
Sexually transmitted infections and viruses live in the fluids produced and transferred during sex. Whether the semen, vaginal discharge, anal fluids, or saliva are infected, the viruses or bacteria will mix with the other fluids present and spread from one person to another.
Additional Facts About Oral Sex and STIs
- If you or your partner have multiple STIs, it is possible to contract or spread all infections.
- If you or your partner have an STI in the genitals, either can contract the same STI in the throat or mouth following oral sex.
- In addition to spreading STIs, anilingus (orally stimulating the anus) can cause bacterial or parasitic infections like E. coli, shigella, and giardia.
- STIs contracted in the throat or mouth can remain symptomless, causing you to spread infections to others without realizing it.
- You can prevent spreading or contracting an STI during oral sex by using barrier protection like condoms or dental dams.
STIs You Can Contract from Oral Sex
Most of the eight primary STIs in the US – chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, herpes, HPV, HIV, and hepatitis – can be passed or contracted through fellatio, cunnilingus, or anilingus. Research shows that trichomoniasis is not transmitted orally, and there is a lower risk of passing or contracting HIV via oral sex than other infections (but transference is still possible).
Several STIs contractable through oral sex will infect the site of contraction, meaning the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips. Other STIs, most notably hepatitis B and C, will not cause symptoms at the infection site but will still cause a bodily infection if contracted. (For more about hepatitis, check out this article detailing what you can expect from infection.)
Symptoms of Chlamydia
Most people who contract chlamydia in the mouth or throat do not show symptoms. However, symptoms can include:
- Mild fever
- Redness in the mouth or throat
- Sores in the mouth or on the lips
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- White spots in the back of the mouth
Even if you do not show symptoms, get tested for chlamydia to be sure you are not unknowingly infected.
A chlamydia infection in the throat or genitals can be quickly and fully treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Similar to chlamydia, a gonorrhea infection does not usually show symptoms. If there are symptoms, patients can experience:
- Sore or burning throat
- Swollen glands
- White spots or lesions in the back of the throat
- Mild fever
Even if you do not show symptoms, get tested for gonorrhea to be sure you are not unknowingly infected.
A gonorrhea infection in the throat or genitals can usually be treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea are on the rise.
Symptoms of Syphilis
Syphilis is another STI that often does not show symptoms at first. If you do experience symptoms, you’ll likely notice:
- Painful sores on your lips, tip of your tongue, gums, or back of the mouth. These sores are usually small and red at first but can develop into larger open sores that can remain red or change to a yellow or gray color.
Even if you do not show symptoms, get tested for syphilis to be sure you are not unknowingly infected.
A syphilis infection in the mouth can be treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms of Herpes
Oral herpes is an extremely common STI that can spread via oral sex or through nonsexual interactions such as sharing food, utensils, cups, or kissing.
Symptoms of oral herpes include:
- Painful blisters or sores on the lips, inside the mouth, or even in the throat
Herpes is not curable, but it is possible to treat an outbreak or prevent one from occurring with antiviral medications.1
Symptoms of HPV
HPV is the STI with the most strains, more than 150, although most present little to no risk of causing symptoms or lasting effects. If you do experience symptoms of HPV, these can include:
- Warts in the mouth or throat
- Development of cancerous cells in the mouth, throat, head, or neck
HPV is not curable, but the vast majority of people will naturally fight off any HPV infections over the course of two years. If you develop warts in the mouth or on the genitals, you can freeze them off. However, they can grow back.
If you believe you have contracted an STI through oral sex, get tested at Women’s Clinic of Atlanta.
Our team offers full-panel testing, as well as STI treatment or management. We want to ensure you are healthy, STI-free, or fully informed about the status of your sexual health. Knowledge is power, and testing is crucial. Let us provide judgment-free, compassionate testing and treatment if needed, no matter what.
Schedule an STI screening by texting “appointment” to 404-777-4771 today.
Women’s Clinic of Atlanta is HIPAA compliant and AAAHC accredited.