(ORDO NEWS) — Recently my husband had a mild COVID illness – cough, sore throat, aches and fatigue. Fortunately, he is vaccinated and vaccinated, and recovered quickly. On the 10th day after infection, he had a negative rapid antigen test. Cool! So when can we have sex?
It turns out that this is a more complex question than it might seem. And while Omicron appears to be loosening its grip on the US, the virus isn’t done with us yet, which means a lot of people will be asking this question in the coming weeks and months.
We know that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID, spreads primarily through the air – that is, people inhale infectious aerosols or respiratory droplets that are produced when someone speaks, coughs, sneezes or breathes (or pant ).
For those who hope to resume sex immediately after experiencing COVID, close contact can become very difficult.
Close contact involving intimacy or kissing can increase the risk of contracting the virus if your partner is infected – even if they are asymptomatic. Coronavirus can be spread by close breathing or contact with saliva. This is clear. But what do we know about the sexual act itself?
First, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). While coronavirus spreads mainly through the respiratory tract, STDs are transmitted mainly through contact with other body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and so on.
Pieces of the viral genome have been found in the semen of small groups of COVID-19 patients in studies using polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Other methods of detecting the presence of an infectious virus – growing it in a lab or seeing if the virus is trying to replicate itself – have so far yielded negative results, says A.Ya. Te Welthuis, a virologist and molecular biologist at Princeton University. “Overall, there doesn’t seem to be any active virus in the testicles/prostate. The same is true for vaginal secretions.”
In two small studies of women with severe COVID-19, the virus was not detected in vaginal secretions, and in another study of 12 pregnant women with confirmed COVID-19 infection, the virus was also not detected.
Nelson Bennett, a urologist at Northwestern University School of Medicine, and Justin Dubin, an urology fellow specializing in male sexual medicine and infertility at Northwestern University School of Medicine, say that while they hope to see more research in this area, the risk of transmission of COVID through sexual activity is “very low”.
The virus has been found in stool samples from COVID-19 patients, and more research is needed to determine if a person can shed the virus during anal sex or sexual activities such as rimming (putting the mouth on the anus).
Even after 10 days, and even after vaccination, “there is some risk of transmitting the virus through the air or saliva,” Te Velthuis says. But if you have a negative lateral flow test a rapid antigen test that risk is limited, and “sexual activity shouldn’t be a problem either,” he adds.
Don’t Forget Common Sense: Safe sex is definitely recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that a negative antigen test “does not necessarily indicate the absence of a transmissible virus.”
If your partner or you are in isolation, have a known contact, or are experiencing typical COVID symptoms, you should not have sex.
If someone has just had COVID-19, Bennett suggests taking a rapid test, while Dubin adds: “You don’t get COVID from sex, but from everything else that precedes it. Sharing small enclosed spaces, close contact, kissing – these are all much more risky behaviors for contracting COVID than sex itself.”
According to NASTAD, the National Coalition of Directors of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, before resuming sexual activity with a domestic partner, you need to make sure that three things have happened after recovery from COVID: no fever for three days without the use of antipyretics; improvement in other symptoms; and the expiration of 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
Michael Mina, rapid test expert and chief scientist at EMed, says if you had COVID and then took two negative rapid tests 24 hours apart, it is “very, very unlikely” that you will pass virus through kissing or sexual contact. “I would even say that there is no need to wait the full 10 days,” says Mina.
In times of uncertainty, the safest partner is yourself. Masturbation does not spread COVID-19 and is therefore very safe.
According to Susan Milstein, co-author of Human Sexuality: Making Informed Decisions. If you have sex with a person who does not live with you, you may not know what precautions that person has taken and asymptomatic spread of the virus can occur. For obvious reasons, being close to multiple partners can contribute to the spread of COVID.
Video dates, sexting, erotic phone calls, and online chats are all non-contact options. As for physical contact outside the home, it all depends on precautions. “Sex is sex. It’s going to happen,” says Diana Rosenberg, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist. “Drink a glass of wine together while checking the rapid test and put on a condom.”
While some recommendations may seem impractical, experts suggest measures that are likely to reduce the risk of contracting COVID or sexually transmitted infections during sex. Using condoms, avoiding or limiting kissing, continuing to masculinize, washing sex toys before and after use can all make a difference.
You can also reduce the number of sexual partners, choose positions that limit face-to-face contact, keep windows open, and improve ventilation. It is recommended to wash hands and body with soap and water before and after sex.
And, of course, vaccinations and inoculations, as well as masking in public places, remain a priority. Not only do they help control the pandemic, but they are safer sex precautions in their own right.
People with weakened immune systems or who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 for example, those with diabetes, cancer, or lung disease may refrain from having sex with people outside the family, take extra precautions, and consult with their doctors.
Safe sex during a pandemic means taking into account your partner’s vaccination status, what changes are best for both of you, and what you both need from sex – and sharing that information with each other. As with many other aspects of COVID, we still have a lot to learn. But even for those who have contracted the virus, this is mostly good news.
And it is necessary. “Sexual health is just as important as a healthy heart, mental health and every other aspect of physical health,” says Jessica Kingston, obstetrician and gynecologist at UC San Diego Health. In the midst of a global pandemic, everything that brings us such pleasure and joy is worth taking some precautions.”
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