Anonymous on September 14, 2011

I’m a female, and I have a burning feeling after intercourse...most often with latex condoms. Do I have a latex allergy?

I’m a female, and I recently noticed a burning sensation after intercourse...most often with latex condoms. It sometimes results in a bladder infection a couple days after sex. Could I be allergic to latex?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 14, 2011

Good question. Let’s start at the beginning...

What is a latex allergy? Latex comes from a plant ⎼ it’s the sap from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis ⎼ and there are proteins in latex to which some people develop an allergic reaction.

Signs of an allergic reaction to latex are similar to other allergy symptoms. People with latex allergies usually develop a red rash one to four days after contact with the latex. A few more days later, the rash will turn dry and scaly. If you’re allergic to latex condoms, you’re also probably allergic to latex gloves...have you noticed any reaction when you come into contact with that type of latex?

That said, latex allergies are relatively rare. A 2007 study in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology looked at the prevalence of latex allergies and found that it’s probably somewhere around 1%. The people most at risk for latex allergies are people that come into contact with latex on a regular basis, like healthcare workers who use latex gloves every day.

If think you might be allergic to latex, make an appointment with an allergist to find out for sure.

A latex allergy isn’t the only possibility...the burning sensation you describe could also indicate an infection. Some vaginal infections ⎼ like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and the STDs trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea ⎼ can all cause itching or discomfort that’s associated with intercourse. There’s even some research that these vaginal infections can make you more susceptible to bladder infections.

If you think you might have been exposed to an STD, or if you don’t know your STD status for sure, I would encourage you to consider getting testing for common STDs.

It’s also possible that the burning sensation you describe is related to your bladder infection. A bladder infection is one type of urinary tract infection (UTI). Researchers estimate that about 85% of UTIs are caused by E. coli ⎼ a type of bacteria that normally lives in the digestive tract and anus.

Because the anus and the urethra are so close together in women, women are more likely to get UTIs than men...and women are more likely to get UTIs when they’re sexually active. To help prevent E. coli from getting into the urethra, doctors recommend that you pee before and after you have sex. Further, any time you go to the bathroom, you should wipe from front to back. And be sure to stay well-hydrated.

Again, depending on your sexual history and your level of risk for STDs, you may want to get tested for a full array of common STDs, including herpes.

Thanks so much for writing to us, and I hope you’ll soon be on the road to recovery.

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

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.

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