Between trying to enjoy yourself and trying to put on a condom, there isn't always time to look for signs you might be allergic to sex. Then again, if an allergic reaction does crop up, its symptoms will likely get your attention pretty darn quick. Whether it's a burning sensation, hives, or annoying irritation, you'll definitely know when something is wrong.
Now, I'm not saying these things are a sign of a "sex allergy." Such a thing doesn't exist, and you certainly can't be allergic to the act of sex itself. You can, however, be allergic or sensitive to the things involved — lubes, condoms, lotions, and even semen.
"If you have an allergic reaction during sex, after speaking with your GP, try ruling out an allergy to latex or the lubricant that you've been using," health expert Jessica Gordon, MS tells Bustle. "This is much more likely to be the culprit of any discomfort you are experiencing."
Of course, pain could also point to an STD. "It is important to know if you are allergic to one of the above items, because if there is pain during intercourse or play ... it could be an infection, like an STI or STD," says sex coach and wellness expert Tiffany Yelverton. Once your doctor rules that out, it may be time to test out natural lubes and latex-free condoms. Read on for some signs you might be allergic.
1. Your Bits Have Gotten Swollen
If your genitals have ever felt swollen during or after sex, it may be due to a sperm allergy. "A sperm or semen allergy can affect up to 0.03 percent of women living in the United States, which doesn't seem big, but is about 40,000 people," says sex educator Jules Purnell, in an email to Bustle. If you truly have this allergy, you'll likely experience a lot of pain, too.
2. You Feel Irritation Down Below
If you have a sperm allergy, you might also experience irritation in your genital area, Purnell tells me. Same goes for other areas of your body exposed to the sperm. You might, for instance, notice redness and itching around your mouth after oral sex. No fun.
3. You've Broken Out In Hives
While latex allergies are rare, it is possible to react to the stuff most condoms are made from. Only one to two people out of 100 have this problem, but it could explain why you break out during sex. "To test this, you can put a condom or latex glove on your finger/hand for two to three minutes and there is no reaction, you are not allergic," says Sophia Yen, MD, MPH, founder of Pandia Health. Easy as that.
4. You're In All Sorts Of Pain
Latex is one issue, but it's also possible to be allergic to the lube that coats the condoms. "If you experience pain while you or your partner is wearing a lubricated condom, consider that it might be the lubricant causing the reaction, not the latex," says sex therapist Stephen Duclos, in an email to Bustle. Test out different brands and see if any water-based ones work better. Or, of course, talk to your doctor.
5. You Feel Itchy After Using A Sex Toy
Some sex toys are made of plastic that can cause allergic reactions and irritations of the skin, especially if the toy is old. "For this reason, opting for surgical grade silicone is best, or using a non-lubricated condom on your toys," Purnell says. (Skip the silicone lube as it's known to further break down toys.)
6. Warming Lubes Are A Little Too "Warming"
There are tons of fun lubes on the market — warming, cooling, etc. It's often a good idea, however, to go with something more natural. Lubes can contain a host of materials that aren't safe for the body, Purnell tells me. "Some warming lubes use an alcohol, glycol, for the 'warming' effect, and others still use capsaicin. Either ingredient can cause irritation or allergic reaction, so be sure to read the labels on your lube."
7. You're Allergic To Tree Nuts
Did you know some lubes are made of almond or coconut oil? If you're allergic to tree nuts, Purnell tells me these more natural versions might be an issue, too. Definitely something to keep in mind if you feel sick, itchy, or have other reactions after lubing up.
8. You're Allergic To Dairy
If you have a dairy allergy, then you might experience a reaction after using certain condom brands. "Many condoms can can cause irritation ... because of the lubricant on them, the fillers, and the fact that they are dusted with Casein, a dairy derivative," says Yelverton. Who knew?
9. You Feel A Burning Sensation
Nobody wants to feel a burning sensation during sex, so stop everything if you do as i t might be another sign of lubricant allergy. "The symptoms of a lubricant allergy are similar to those of a latex allergy: redness, irritation, itching, swelling, tingling, burning, and — in more severe cases — hives or lesions," says Gordon. Again, try to avoid lubes with glycerin or glycerol.
10. You Are All Dried Out
Have you ever felt itchy or dried out in your vaginal area? If so, it may have something to do with the lotions or douches you're using before or after sex. This is why you should always read ingredients beforehand. "Before you insert something in your vagina, make sure it doesn't contain irritants," says women's health expert Michael Ingber, MD. "Glycerin and alcohols are found in a number of lotions and lubricants and can be irritating and drying to the vagina."
11. You're Allergic To What's In Your Partner's Semen
Semen allergies exist, but did you know you can be allergic to the components of semen, too? "When women note an allergic-type reaction during climax/ejaculation, I always ask what medicines and foods the partner is taking," Ingber says. "What you eat and drink goes into the body fluids, including the semen. Some women may have an allergy to a medication their partner is taking and this can result in allergic reactions as well."
While there isn't a "sex" allergy, per se, it is possible to be allergic and/or irritated by all sorts of sex-related things. If you break out, feel itchy, or get sick be sure you talk to a doctor right away.
Images: Pexels (12)