Dear Doc | Can I get a yeast infection via oral sex?
Q Dear Doc, I need your help. My boyfriend and I decided to try oral sex, and a few days after, I started having burning and itching in my vagina. It was extremely uncomfortable and I googled what it could be; it said it was a yeast infection. I told my boyfriend, because I thought it happened because of the oral sex, and now he is mad and not talking to me, because now he thinks I could give him yeast in his mouth. Since telling him, he is complaining of a sore throat. Can any of this be possible?
A Oh, boy! I can see where this could cause a problem. Let me help with both hypotheses.
First of all, to allay any fears, let me start by stating that a yeast infection, medically called vulvo-vaginal candidiasis, is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, because it occurs in persons who are not sexually active and also since the candida species are part of the normal vaginal flora (they normally live in the vagina).
However, sexual transmission of candida does occur and yeast infections can be associated with sexual activity. This has been proven by an increased occurrence of yeast infections being reported at the time most women begin regular sexual activity. The type of sex may also be a factor.
TRANSMISSION THROUGH ORAL SEX
At least one study has shown that receiving vaginal oral sex increases your risk of having a vaginal yeast infection.
This is because oral sex introduces bacteria and candida from your partner’s mouth, tongue, and gums to your vagina, labia and clitoris, and this is in addition to the candida species that already exists there.
Your risk for infection increases even more if your partner has oral thrush (yeast infection of the mouth and throat) at the time you receive oral sex.
Candida thrives best in moist environments, so oral sex also creates an opportunity for candida to grow more quickly than it normally would.
Therefore, oral sex can trigger a yeast infection in your vagina, penis or anus.
So, though it is possible that you may have contracted the infection from your partner, the timing may also just be a coincidence.
The candida species is a normal part of the microscopic bacteria ecosystem living in your mouth, tongue, gums, and throat. If they begin to grow uncontrollably, an oral yeast infection (oral thrush) may develop.
Candida species also lives in the vagina and penis, so performing oral sex on a person may introduce additional candida to your mouth, triggering an overgrowth.
You may also contract oral thrush if you perform oral sex on someone who has a vaginal, penile, or anal yeast infection.
So it is possible that your boyfriend may have contracted an oral yeast infection from oral sex.
WHAT ELSE CAUSES YEAST INFECTIONS?
Although it’s possible to transmit a yeast infection through oral sex, you may be more likely to develop a yeast infection as a result of:
- Wearing wet or sweaty clothing.
- Using fragrant cleansers on or around your genitals.
- Taking birth control pills, antibiotics, or corticosteroids.
- Having high blood sugar or uncontrolled diabetes.
The good news is that yeast infections, though very uncomfortable, are quite easy to treat.
Vaginal yeast infections can be treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medication. However, if you experience frequent or severe yeast infections, you should see your doctor for prescription-strength medication.
Oral thrush can also be treated with OTC options, but it can be difficult to clear without prescription medication. If this is your first experience with oral thrush, or if you are unsure if it is oral thrush, you should see a doctor for treatment.
You can reduce your risk for vaginal yeast infections by using a condom or dental dam to minimise the spread of candida and bacteria. This can also reduce your partner’s risk of developing oral thrush.
Generally speaking, you may be able to reduce your risk for any type of yeast infection if you:
- Cut down on carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods.
- Wear breathable cotton undergarments.
- Clean genitals thoroughly after activities where you are submerged in water.
- Avoid using perfumed soaps or other hygiene products on your genitals.
- Avoid douching.