Sexual Health Monday March 28, 2011

How safe is oral sex?

If you use barrier contraceptive methods like condoms or dams, oral sex is relatively safe. However, many people don't realise the potential risks that unprotected oral sex brings.

The risk of oral sex depends on numerous factors, so the risk varies from person to person and also changes with each partner.

Some infections are spread more easily though oral sex than others, but it's believed that it's generally safer to receive oral sex than to give it because you're less likely to be exposed to genital fluids.

Even if you use a condom every time you have penetrative sex, you could still develop an STI. You may not realise, because many are symptomless. Those which do cause symptoms are often so similar to other conditions that they can be misdiagnosed or mistreated, such as Trichomonas Vaginalis , which has symptoms similar to other STIs.

The most common STIs that are spread through oral sex are: genital herpes , gonorrhoea and syphilis. Other STIs that can be spread through unprotected oral sex, though at a much reduced risk, are: chlamydia , HIV, hepatitis A, B and C and genital warts.

If you want to have unprotected sex with a partner, you should only do so if you're in a monogamous relationship and you both have a clear bill of sexual health. The only way to know you haven't got an infection is to take an STI test . If you do have any STIs, an STI test will easily detect the infection and you can begin treatment as soon as possible.

STIs are spread through skin to skin contact, usually causing blisters and sores on the mouth or genitals. The infection is spread if the infected area touches a partner's mouth, genitals or anus. This transmission is possible, even if you don't have any symptoms.

STIs are also spread when bodily fluid is exchanged and comes into contact with sores, cuts, ulcers, inflamed cells, eye membrane or cells of the throat.

The only way to prevent the spread of STIs is to use a barrier contraceptive and get tested at least once a year.

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