We all know that using protection when engaging in any sexual activity is super important, but many young adults choose to forgo protection when it comes to foreplay, assuming that the risks are "small." Despite what many people think, having unprotected oral sex is a total risk. In fact, STDs from oral sex are not only bad for your overall sexual health, they could also threaten the health and wellbeing of your other sexual partner(s).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 85 percent of sexually active adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have engaged in oral sex at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, due to the fact that many millennials don't necessarily consider oral to be the main entree, it's all too common for protection during oral to fall to the way side. Although the risk of contracting an extremely serious disease like HIV from oral sex is much lower, it is still a possibility. If that isn't worrisome enough, the CDC also notes that STDs contracted orally do have the potential to spread to throughout the body — so if things end up going south, you could end up with some pretty pricey medical bills on your hands.
There's no need to work yourself into a panic, but making yourself aware of STDs that could potentially be contracted from oral is a big part of practicing safe sex.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can live in the genitals and throat. One of the most unfortunate things about Chlamydia is that it is easily treatable, but according to the CDC, oftentimes those who are infected show no symptoms. When gone untreated, Chlamydia can cause such serious damage to the female reproductive system making it difficult — and in some cases, impossible — for a woman to become pregnant later in life.
Symptoms of Chlamydia, if present, include discharge, bleeding, and painful urination in both men and women. It can also be contracted in the mouth or in the genital region.
Like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea is another STD that often goes undetected because it often occurs without symptoms. Gonorrhea (aka "the clap") is an infection that can be contracted in the genitals, rectum, and throat, resulting in pain and inflammation in the genital tracts of both men and woman. According to the CDC, it is one of the most common STDs occurring in sexually active young adults, aged 15 to 24. With the right medications, most forms of Gonorrhea are easily treatable, but it's important to note that there has been a marked increase in the incidents of drug resistant strains of the virus. If gone untreated, Gonorrhea can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, which can ultimately lead to infertility and other complications further down the line.
According to the CDC, Syphilis is an infection that causes the growth of a bacteria known as Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is another STD that can lead to extremely serious complications if it goes untreated. It can infect not only the genitals, but also the mouth, lips, and throat. Syphilis is usually spread by direct contact with the rash or sore of an infected person. Unlike other STDs, however, different symptoms are associated with different stages of the disease progression.
Early symptoms of Syphilis may include painless sores at the original infection or a rash on the palms of the hand, notes the CDC.
I know what you're thinking: Which type of herpes? Well, WebMD explains that the two most common types of herpes simplex are type 1 (oral) and type 2 (genital), and you can contract genital herpes by receiving oral sex from someone who has oral herpes — the less stigmatized "cousin" — and of course, someone who gives oral sex to someone with genital herpes can contract oral herpes.
So the myth that you can only get herpes from someone with a live outbreak isn't true. Herpes can still be contracted when the sores are dormant, but it's just more likely for the disease to be transmitted when active sores are present. Currently, there's no cure for herpes, but there are medications to manage discomfort during outbreaks.
Ultimately, the only way to guarantee that you will never contract an STD is to abstain from sex altogether. But since I have a feeling there aren't many of us who would consider a measure that extreme — it is so important to practice safe sex and get STD screenings regularly.