Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
What signs should I look for after unprotected oral sex to know if I have an STD?
Lisa Oldson, MD on August 16, 2011
I’m sure you’re not alone in your concern, so thank you for sharing your question.
You’re right to wonder about an STD after unprotected oral sex – especially when you don’t know much about your partner’s sexual history. Unprotected sex of any kind (oral, vaginal or anal) is a risky behavior that can lead to STDs if the person you had sex with has an STD. In fact, almost every common STD can be transmitted by oral sex...whether you’re on the giving or receiving end.
How do you know if you have an STD? Most people with STDs don’t have signs or symptoms of infection...at least, not at first. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as few as 10% of the 50 million Americans with genital herpes know they’re infected with the virus.
In other words, you may not be able to tell if you or your partner has an STD just by looking. The only way to know your status for sure is to get tested for common STDs. And if it turns out that you test positive for an STD, remember that your life is not over. Many STDs – like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – are curable with antibiotics. Others – like hepatitis B and C, herpes, HIV and HPV – are treatable and manageable.
How can you reduce your risk of STDs in future? Use latex condoms or dental dams each and every time you you engage in sexual activity; and, ideally, being in a mutually monogamous relationship with someone who’s been tested and treated, if necessary, for STDs is also a safer way to engage in sexual activity.
In fact, condoms have been found to be so effective in preventing the spread of STDs that the World Health Organization (WHO) has incorporated them as an essential component in its public health strategies to prevent STDs.
But condoms and other precautions don’t prevent STDs 100% of the time. This is especially true in the case of STDs like genital warts and herpes, which can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. That’s why regular testing is so important...getting tested once a year is a good guideline to follow if you’re sexually active.
Talk to your doctor about STD testing, or you can seek out confidential STD testing online.
For more information about STD symptoms, prevention and testing, please consult our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
I wish you good health, and thanks again for sharing your question.
Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.