Does Having Sex While Sick Help? 5 Things To Know About Getting Down When You're Feeling Low

It's nearing the end of the cold season and the beginning of Spring ... which means that everybody will shortly be developing spring colds and will still be sneezing everywhere in your office. It's a joyous time of year. But if you have concerns and beliefs about having sex while you're sick with a virus or infection, you may want to check up on them. There's a lot of misinformation about the spread of non-STD illnesses during sex, from the belief that you might get a virus from a flu-sufferer's sperm to the idea that sweaty sex might break a fever. (Both untrue, alas.)

In general, the rule is: don't have sex while you're sick. I know, it's sucky, but unless you're both down with the same thing at the one time, it's likely a poor plan, and even then you may just keep passing it back and forth if immunity doesn't develop. Sex will not cure your ills, and likely also won't endear you to your lover if it ends up making them miserable and sniffly too.

Here are five things you need to know about sex while you're sick, either with a virus or a bacterial infection (know the difference, please). The next time a partner breaks out the "I'm sure it's safe, I just have a little bit of fever," make sure you know what's up.

1. Colds & Flus Aren't Spread Via Sexual Fluids

The common cold or influenza isn't transmitted via semen or vaginal fluid. Unless you have a specifically sexually-transmitted disease, it's not likely to be spread by that means. But that doesn't mean that sex while you're ill with a virus is entirely risk-free, which brings us to...

2. ... But You Can Definitely Get Sick From Having Sex

After all, sex is a messy business involving many bodily fluids, including saliva and particles in the breath. If you're in a contagious phase, it's unwise to have sex, but not because your genitals are suddenly radioactive; it's because any interaction with somebody in an active viral phase risks contagion via other means, like coughing or sneezing.

And why anybody would want to have sex while they've got a stomach flu is beyond me, but there appears to be a conception in some circles that it's all good as long as you shower in between or try to keep yourselves hygienic. As people will discover to their cost, gastroenteritis germs are sneaky things that can live for up to 72 hours outside the body, and getting them into your mouth (which is the normal way to get the illness) is much easier than you might think, particularly during sex. Basically, everything that an infected person touches is a contagion risk, as is just being in their presence, so a condom provides no protection from spreading the virus.

3. Having Sex Will Not Reduce A Fever

This sounds like "real" science: the sweat produced by active sex is supposed to sweat out a fever, contributing to healthy recovery. The problem? It's an utter myth. The idea that you can sweat out a fever is a common misconception; aiming to induce sweat by excessive activity or warming the body with too many blankets isn't a way to break a fever's cycle. The raise in body temperature in a fever is your body's reaction to infection, as it attempts to fight off nasties through heightened immune system activity. Sweat for sweat's sake targets the wrong thing entirely.

You shouldn't "sweat out a fever" during sex any more than you should do heavy exercise with a fever: it may actually hinder you from getting better. The feverish body is already under a lot of stress, which it's doing its best to fight; further stressing it out is not going to help matters. Consider this one debunked, and mark yourself as a no-go zone until you're healthy and out of the high temperature range.

4. Yes, It Is Safe To Masturbate When You're Ill

There's a myth that masturbation depletes the body's fluids and vital minerals and should be avoided while ill. If you're in the habit of masturbating so violently you need a five-hour nap afterwards, you should avoid it for the same reasons you avoid excessive exercise; but on the basis of excretion of vaginal fluids and minerals, it's fine. Go Ask Alice has pointed out that, while nutrient loss through masturbation in women is actually very seriously under-studied, it's not likely to make much of a difference because the quantity is so incredibly small. Make sure you remain hydrated and take supplements that are supposed to aid the immune system, like zinc, if you're worried — but considering that your partnered sexual activity is likely to be seriously curtailed when you have an infection or virus, godspeed.

5. Having Sex Will Not Boost Your Immunity After You're Already Sick

It does look as if frequent sexual activity is scientifically proven to boost your immune system function, reducing the likelihood of later illness. But it's too late to kick-start your immune system's effectiveness by having sex when you're already ill; that's like pouring oil frantically all over a faulty engine as opposed to doing regular maintenance. Misunderstands the problem and likely won't help at all.

Two separate studies from 2015 confirmed that regular sex is good for immune function in women, likely because it's an evolutionary advantage for fertility. The immune system needs to be healthy to be able to conceive properly, or else it'll view sperm cells as invaders and do its utmost to prevent pregnancy. Plus, of course, better immune systems mean less risk of infections that may impede a successful pregnancy and birth. But frantic sexing while ill doesn't appear to be the way to harness this effectively. Sorry.

Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.

Images: Bustle, Giphy