Published on October 21, 2018 at 14:42 / Updated on July 4, 2023 at 14:20

Obviously, the most effective way to manage most allergies is to avoid all contact with the allergen, be it penicillin, shellfish, peanuts or cats. Although this may cause minor inconveniences, it is certainly doable. But what can you do when you are allergic to sex?

This unfortunate phenomenon is not widely known, but some women’s bodies actually exhibit allergic reactions following sexual intercourse. Understandably, a great majority of them declare that abstinence is inconceivable!


Contrary to other allergies, women plagued by an allergy to sex do not get an “all over” rash. Most often, only the inner and outer vaginal areas become red and very swollen. The way to differentiate between an allergy and an infection is that reactions appear within minutes of sexual intercourse, and there is no pain, discharge, itching and/or odor. In most cases, the symptoms spontaneously disappear within a few hours. On occasions, more violent reactions may be accompanied by hives and breathing problems.

Allergic to sperm?

But what causes this allergic reaction? Women are not allergic to the penis or the sperm but rather to the semen, specifically to certain proteins contained in the seminal fluid. And no, changing partner will not remedy the problem! When a woman is allergic to semen, she is likely to react to the proteins contained in the semen of any man.

Although this type of allergy can be embarrassing, the good news is there are many solutions. Using a condom is the obvious and simplest way to eradicate the problem. Nevertheless, you should speak with your gynaecologist to rule out infection. The next step is to undergo an allergy test. If the test is positive, the allergist will prescribe the appropriate medication. In mild cases, oral medication or vaginal allergy medication are enough to bring relief. Perhaps surprisingly, and just like pollen allergies, desensitisation by injection may also be a viable option. Desensitisation teaches the immune system to develop antibodies that will enable it to tolerate a particular allergen.

Latex allergy

If vaginal redness and swelling occurs after having had intercourse with a condom, the culprit may be an allergy to latex. This allergy can appear suddenly and after years of using condoms without having any reactions. If this turns out to be the case, you must tell your physician or gynaecologist so he or she can use non-latex gloves for your gynaecological exam. If you have an allergy to latex, you can use lambskin or polyurethane condoms such as Durex Avanti or Trojan Supra. Another option could be the polyurethane female condom now available everywhere but slightly more expensive than regular condoms.

Allergic reaction to lubricant

If neither semen nor latex condoms are to blame, the vaginal lubricant you use may be the cause of your symptoms. In this case, you should forget about using the fruit-flavoured lubricant your boyfriend gave you on Valentine’s Day!

Regardless of the reason behind an allergy to sex, it is important for women who suffer from them to know that solutions, other than abstinence, really do exist! The sooner you consult a health professional, the sooner you can start enjoying intimate relations again!

If you're sexually active, you're at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI). 

PSST! - Let's talk about sex and its infections

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