Allergic Reactions During Sexual Intercourse

Allergic reactions during sex are not very common, but they do happen. In fact, they may be an underreported problem.

Some people may not recognize their symptoms as an allergic reaction. Allergy symptoms can be similar to the physical changes that happen during sex, including a fast heartbeat, sweating, swelling, and flushed or tingly skin.

Some people might not seek care for an allergic reaction to sex because they feel a bit uncomfortable bringing it up with a doctor. But allergic reactions can worsen over time. Severe reactions can even cause hives, breathing problems, and anaphylaxis, which can lead to death.

This article explains some of the causes of allergic reactions during sex. It also provides some guidance about when to seek medical help.

Hives on a woman's stomach
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Latex Allergy

A latex allergy is triggered by the material that most condoms, those put on the penis or inserted into the vagina, are made of. It can affect one or both partners.

Symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Rash
  • Uticaria or hives
  • Swelling
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Anaphylaxis

Usually, these symptoms occur within seconds to minutes of latex exposure. In some cases, they can occur many hours later. The skin exposed to latex can even blister.

You may be diagnosed with a latex allergy if a blood test identifies IgE antibodies against latex. These are proteins that indicate that your immune system is treating latex as an allergen.

Treating the allergy means avoiding latex. Polyurethane condoms and SKYN non-latex condoms made from polyisoprene are good alternatives, as they protect you from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Non-latex condoms made of lamb intestines are also available. They can prevent pregnancy, but they don't protect against STIs.

Product Ingredients

Lubricants and spermicides may have scents, dyes, preservatives, or other ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction with itching.

Underwear or tights with certain dyes, as well as cleansing wipes you might use after sex, can also cause a reaction.

Even if you're not having a true allergic response, your body may be sensitive to one or more ingredients, which can cause similar symptoms.

Seminal Fluid Allergy

Allergic reactions to semen are extremely rare. Proteins in the fluid, not the sperm, cause most of these reactions. It is also possible for semen (and saliva) to contain traces of foods or medications that are allergens.

You can be allergic to one person's semen, but not another's. It's also possible to be allergic to more than one partner's semen. In some cases, people react to semen that has never caused an issue in the past.

A semen allergy can cause:

  • Itching and burning within 30 minutes of sex
  • Hives or swelling
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Anaphylaxis

Skin tests and blood allergy tests can determine if you have an allergy to seminal fluid. If you do, you can use condoms to avoid coming into contact with it.

Some people can be gradually de-sensitized to an allergen. That involves exposure to the allergen in increasing amounts over time.

This approach may be a good one if you're trying to get pregnant. There are also ways to "wash" sperm during fertility procedures so allergens are removed.

If you have a history of severe reactions, you should not try to de-sensitize on your own. Work with a physician so the process is safe for you.

Recap

Latex, fragrances, and semen can all cause allergic reactions. After sex, you could have mild symptoms like itching, burning, swelling, or hives. It's also possible to have a more severe reaction with breathing problems or anaphylaxis.

Other Causes of Itching After Sex

Sometimes post-sex itching isn't caused by an allergy. If you have symptoms that don't go away in a day or so, talk to a healthcare professional.

Some of the possible causes may need prescription treatment.

Dry or Irritated Skin

If your skin tends to be on the dry and flaky side, you may have some itching after sex. This may be true if you:

  • Didn't use enough lubricant during sex
  • Were not aroused enough during sex
  • Used products with fragrance or dyes
  • Washed with a drying soap
  • Have a health condition such as eczema or diabetes

Hormonal changes can also make the skin on the vulva and vagina drier. That can happen if you've just had a baby or you're in menopause.

Some medications can also change the fluids in your vagina. Birth control pills and antidepressants are two examples.

pH Levels

A pH level is a measure of how acidic something is. A healthy vagina usually has a pH of 3.8 to 5.0, which is slightly acidic. When the pH is in that range, it limits the growth of microbes that could cause infections.

If the pH gets too high, your risk of infection also goes up. Some of the things that can change the vagina's natural pH are:

  • Having unprotected sex, because semen is more alkaline
  • Taking antibiotics, which can destroy some of the "good" microbes that prevent infection
  • Douching or over-cleansing the vagina, which strips the vagina of its good bacteria
  • Having a period, because menstrual blood raises pH

Infection

One of the most common causes of itching after sex is infection. Parasites, bacteria, and fungi (yeast) can cause:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Discharge

These symptoms may be more intense after you've had sex. Depending on the cause, an over-the-counter medication could stop the itching. But many infections need to be treated with prescription medication.

STIs

Some infections are passed from person to person through sex. Many STIs don't cause any symptoms at first. For that reason, you can pass them to a partner without realizing it.

Itching is a common symptom of many STIs, including:

If you have itching for more than a few days after having sex, it's a good idea to get tested to find out if you have an STI. If you do, you will likely need prescription medication to treat or manage it.

Recap

Dry skin, vaginal pH changes, and infections can also cause itching after sex. Some infections respond to OTC medications. Others, especially STIs, need medical care.

How to Treat Post-Sex Itching

Here are a few options that may put a stop to your itching:

  • Switch the type of condom you're using. Other materials may not trigger a reaction.
  • Stop having sex for a few days to see if the symptoms ease.
  • Use more lubrication or slow sex down to allow your body's natural fluids to flow.
  • Keep your body clean and dry. Wearing loose, breathable clothing throughout the day may help.
  • Avoid products with fragrances or irritants.

If the itching stems from an infection, those steps won't fix the problem. You'll need to see a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Depending on your diagnosis, you may need one of these medications:

  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Antiviral medications
  • Anti-fungal medications

Other Allergic-Type Reactions to Sex

You could be having a reaction that looks and feels like an allergy, but isn't an allergy to sex.

Vasomotor rhinitis is congestion, runny nose, and sneezing after sex. (In fact, it's sometimes called "honeymoon rhinitis.")

It happens when nerves and blood vessels in your nasal passages are stimulated. This condition may have something to do with the strong emotions sex can stir up.

Some people use a nasal spray (ipratropium bromide) about an hour before sex to prevent this problem.

Post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), another possibility, is a very rare reaction. Within a few seconds to a few hours after ejaculation, allergy or flu-like symptoms occur. They can include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

POIS is more common in people with a penis. Researchers aren't sure exactly what causes it.

Summary

It's rare, but not impossible, to have an allergic reaction during sex. Latex, fragrances, preservatives, or proteins in semen can cause itching and other symptoms. Dry skin, pH changes, and infections can also cause reactions.

Symptoms often go away in a day or so. If they don't, it's important to see a healthcare professional. Allergies can often be treated so you don't have to deal with the itch after sex. If an infection is making you itchy, you may need medication to cure the problem.

A Word from Verywell Health

Talking about a sex-related allergy can be sensitive. For some people, symptoms like genital itching can feel highly personal or even embarrassing. It may help if you start by telling your healthcare provider that you feel nervous or vulnerable. It may also help to write down your questions in advance. However you choose to frame the issue, speaking up is the best way to solve the problem and protect your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you be allergic to someone sexually?

    Sex-related allergies are rare, but they are possible. You may also be allergic to a product someone is using, such as a spermicide, lubricant, or condom. Keep in mind that you can have a reaction to one person's body fluids and not have a reaction to someone else's.

  • Can you be allergic to semen?

    Yes. Semen allergies are rare, but they do happen. Symptoms could include itching, hives, swelling, and breathing problems. An allergist can perform skin and blood tests to be sure it's semen that is causing your symptoms.

  • Are there any home remedies I can use to stop the itch?

    Understanding the cause is the first step to stopping the itch. Speak with a healthcare provider before you opt for a home remedy. For many kinds of itching, taking a colloidal oatmeal or baking soda bath can bring some relief. Applying a cool, wet cloth to the itchy area can also ease the itching.

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6 Sources
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