7 Signs You’re Allergic To Male Bodily Fluids
If someone happens to experience itchiness, swelling, or other uncomfortable symptoms after coming in contact with bodily fluids, a semen allergy may be to blame. They might notice them in the vaginal area, but symptoms can occur in other parts of the body, too. And they can range from mild to severe. (And while we refer to male bodily fluids in the headline, it's important to note that not only men have semen and not all men have semen.)
"Allergy to semen is very rare," Kathleen Dass, MD, of Michigan Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center, tells Bustle. "The most recent estimates have the number of females affected at up to 40,000 [...] though it is likely under-diagnosed." And there are no current statistics for how it impacts men.
Also known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity, "symptoms can range from local reactions to more full body systemic reactions," Dr. Dass says. "[And they] can happen anywhere there is exposure to seminal fluid and usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure."
But there ways to keep yourself safe. "The easiest way to prevent a semen allergy is to use a condom," Dr. Dass says. "This does not account for a defective or leaking condom so it will be important to have an auto-injectable epinephrine pen at your bedside," if you experience more severe reactions.
If you'd like to have sex without a condom, there are ways to help your body get desensitized to semen through the use of allergy shots, Dr. Dass says. While a semen allergy is quite uncommon, don't hesitate to ask your doctor about it, if any of the symptoms below sound familiar. They can test you for the allergy, and help you get back to feeling better.
1. Redness & Swelling
A semen allergy can cause a local reaction, Dr. Dass says, usually in the vulva and vaginal area. Milder symptoms can include things like itching, burning, swelling, and pain when semen comes in contact with the body. And annoyingly, they can stick around for several days after.
2. There's Tingling & Burning
This allergic reaction can also lead to other uncomfortable symptoms like tingling and burning, Dr. Danielle Raiman Plummer, PharmD, tells Bustle. And since they're so similar to those of a urinary tract infection (UTI), it can be easy to think that's what's going on.
If you treat your UTI and don't find relief, consider how a semen allergy might be playing a role, and ask your doctor to get tested.
3. Other UTI Symptoms
While it can lead to symptoms similar to those of a UTI, this allergy can also cause a UTI, Dr. Plummer says. "The urinary tract is supposed to be sterile but bacteria, most commonly E. coli, can get pushed up during sex resulting in the infection," she says. "The exact relation between semen allergy and UTI is yet to be determined, but the presentation is extreme pain when urinating in women of child-bearing age."
4. An Ongoing Yeast Infection
The symptoms of semen allergy can also be confused with a yeast infection, since it "often presents as an increase of yeast, and that is how it is treated," Dr. Plummer says. But if the underlying cause of the symptoms is misdiagnosed, the yeast infection will keep occurring.
"The reason for this is that our natural flora of yeast and bacteria can easily be thrown off balance," Dr. Plummer says. "When the semen kills the natural, 'good' bacteria, it allows the yeast to overgrow."
5. Condoms Help The Situation
If you have certain "strange" symptoms that can't otherwise be explained, it may be worth it to chat with your doctor and get tested for this allergy.
But another major clue will be your history. As Dr. Dass says, "People will report having symptoms without condoms, but symptoms will disappear as soon as a condom is used." While it may seem obvious in hindsight, it can take a while to put two and two together.
Someone might experience a reaction wherever semen touches (such as around the vagina, on the skin, or around the mouth). But it can also be systemic, Dr. Plummer says, and lead to a full-body reaction resulting in hives or a rash.
This is on the more severe side of the semen allergy spectrum, and may prompt you to go to a doctor sooner than itching or redness ever would. But don't hesitate to reach out for advice, however small your symptoms may be.
While not everyone with a semen allergy will have a severe reaction, it's important to note that it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis, which can occur within minutes of exposure.
"For instance, you will likely have the swelling and/or hives, but you may also have difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, dizziness, and a drop in your blood pressure," Dr. Dass says. "There are no reported deaths from anaphylaxis to seminal plasma hypersensitivity, but it can cause significant emotional distress."
If any of these reactions sound familiar, there's a chance it's due to a semen allergy. While it's pretty rare to have an actual allergy to semen, it never hurts to ask your doctor, just to be sure. If you do have it, there are precautions you can take, as well as treatments available so you'll be more likely to have pain-free sex going forward.
This article was updated from its original version on May 2, 2019.