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what sti causes sore throat

By: RSC Editorial Team

August 2, 2023

Which STIs Cause Sore Throat?

You probably associate sore throats with the common cold, strep throat, or allergies. But there’s another option: You might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

Sore throats aren’t the only common cold or flu symptom that arises from STIs. Vomiting, headaches, and fatigue are all symptoms of various STIs. Don’t be so quick to write these signs off as a cold. You might wonder: What STIs cause sore throat?

STIs don’t only affect the genital area — they can infect your mouth, too. Oral sex could lead to oral STIs, especially when you have unprotected sex. Even when you contract an STI through vaginal or anal sex, you may experience a sore throat.

If you’ve been sexually active and your sore throat persists, you should test for an STI. STI testing is easier than ever with a rapid STD test

All About Oral STIs

STDs spread through all types of sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a risk of contracting STDs whether you’re having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. 

Common oral STIs include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • HPV
  • Syphilis 

Note that having one STI doesn’t automatically mean you don’t have another. For example, you can have chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time. 

You’re at a higher risk for an oral STI if you perform oral sex without protection. You can also contract an STI if your partner performing oral sex has an oral STI, as oral STIs can affect the genitals. 

If you think you might have an oral STD, talk to a medical professional or order a test as soon as possible. You can even order same-day testing from Rapid STD Testing to get your results sooner.

The sooner you can diagnose an STD, the sooner you can seek treatment. You should also inform any sexual partners you’ve recently been with as soon as you have your results.

Contracting STIs Through Oral Sex

Oral sex involves using the tongue, lips, or mouth to perform sexual acts in the genital areas. This includes:

  • Analingus or oral sex with the anus
  • Fellatio or oral sex with the penis
  • Cunnilingus or oral sex with the vagina

Even though your genitals aren’t making contact, you are still exchanging sexual fluids. Fluids like semen, pre-cum, and vaginal fluid can all transmit sexual infections. Even if you take measures to prevent fluid from being exchanged, any sexual contact carries a risk. 

Once you contract an STD in the mouth, it could spread to other parts of your body. Gonorrhea, for example, can enter your bloodstream and infect your genitals, eyes, and other body parts. Chlamydia can also spread to your eyes, so don’t make the mistake of assuming it will remain confined to the area(s) of contact.

According to the CDC, 85% of sexually active adults participate in oral sex. This poses a huge risk if those adults are uninformed about the spread of oral STIs. Because some STIs don’t present with symptoms, you could be carrying an STI without realizing it and give it to another partner. 

The long-term effects of some STIs can cause permanent damage. Testing is essential to guarantee you are taking care of your body and aren’t contributing to the spread of oral STIs.

STIs That Cause Sore Throat

What STIs cause sore throat? While there are many, the list below covers the most common. Each has symptoms to look out for and a corresponding treatment. 

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection colloquially known as “the clap.” A bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes it, and it spreads through all types of sexual contact. 

While you cannot contract gonorrhea from kissing alone, you can spread it if one partner’s mouth has already been on the other’s genitals before kissing. Exchanging those fluids, even by kissing, can lead to gonorrhea in the mouth and throat.

When you contract gonorrhea from oral sex, it affects the mouth and throat. Symptoms include: 

  • Sore or irritated throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever

HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can spread orally, causing a sore throat. Left untreated, HIV causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. The symptoms depend on the stage of the virus your body is experiencing.

Stage one, or Acute HIV, will look like a flu or cold. This is where you’ll experience a sore throat, headaches, fevers, and swollen lymph nodes.

Stage two, or Chronic HIV, has little to no symptoms, making it quite deceptive. The symptoms from stage one will fade or resolve until they return in stage three.

Stage three, or Symptomatic HIV, marks when HIV develops into AIDS. With the weakened immune system that comes with AIDS, you are more likely to catch (and have difficulty recovering from) various infections. 

Herpes

Herpes encapsulates all infections that arise from HSV (herpes simplex virus). Even if you contract herpes from vaginal or anal sex, you may have oral symptoms. Herpes can take the form of cold sores in your mouth or genital area.

There are two types of HSV infections.

HSV-1 spreads through oral sex. It causes cold sores to appear on the mouth and lips. It may also affect the genitals. 

HSV-2 spreads through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. This strain primarily affects the genitals. 

Chlamydia

Chlamydia comes from the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is one of the most commonly transmitted STIs in the United States, but it is not common in the throat. 

Chlamydia infection in the throat may result in a sore throat, white spots toward the back of the mouth, sores, swollen lymph nodes, and a possible fever. Other times, it won’t show symptoms at all. Untreated chlamydia could lead to serious health problems.

Syphilis

Syphilis comes from the bacterium Treponema pallidum. You can transmit syphilis through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. 

Symptoms are dependent on the stage of syphilis you have. These begin with sores during phase one. In phase two, you may experience a rash, hair loss, and a sore throat. Stage three presents little to no symptoms, with stage four being the most severe.

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) isn’t a single virus but a group of over 200. HPV can be asymptomatic, but when it does present symptoms, they are: 

  • Warts 
  • Genital bumps
  • Sore throat

Diagnosing and Treating STIs

Just as these STIs have unique symptoms, they require different treatments. Diagnosing STIs always starts with a test. Try the 10-panel STD test if you aren’t sure which STI you might have. This covers the most common STIs. 

You can test nearly all STIs with urine samples or swabs of the infected area. If you’re experiencing throat pain, consider a throat swab. 

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an STI that sometimes shows no symptoms. Left untreated, however, it can lead to severe health problems. Blindness, infertility, and septic arthritis are all possible long-term effects of gonorrhea. 

To cure gonorrhea, you’ll need a prescription for antibiotics. Most doctors use intramuscular ceftriaxone, which you’ll only need one dose of. Since gonorrhea has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, some doctors will use cephalosporins, which can be more effective. 

HIV 

Doctors test for HIV through your blood or saliva. While HIV isn’t curable, your doctor can prescribe medication to prevent it from progressing into AIDS. This treatment is referred to as antiretroviral therapy or ART. You can also receive medication to manage symptoms. 

To safely have sex after contracting HIV, your partner must take PrEP, a drug that prevents HIV infection.

Chlamydia

Testing for chlamydia involves a swab test of the infected area. If you’re diagnosed with chlamydia, there are several medications available. One of the most effective treatments is 100 mg of doxycycline twice a day for a week. 

When you’re going through treatment for chlamydia, refrain from having sex. Otherwise, you risk reinfecting yourself and passing it on to your partner. 

Herpes

You can be diagnosed with herpes through a blood test. Herpes is not a curable STI, but medications are available to treat it and manage symptoms. This medication will also manage outbreaks and lessen the risk of spreading. 

Syphilis

Doctors will use an antibody blood test to test for syphilis. If you test positive, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight the infection. Typically, doctors prescribe penicillin to combat syphilis.

HPV

Testing for HPV is a little more complicated. Once the doctor detects HPV in your sample, you must determine what type of HPV you have to treat it properly. 

While HPV is not curable, there are medications available to manage symptoms. Depending on the type of HPV you have, you might be more susceptible to cancer. If this is the case, your doctor will talk with you about the next steps. 

If a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, remember to take it for the full time you’re meant to. Don’t stop just because your throat feels better or symptoms subside. Otherwise, you risk reinfection.

Prevention Against Oral STIs

There are options to lower the risk of contracting an oral STI. The only way to avoid STIs is by not engaging in sexual activity. If you’re sexually active, there will always be a risk. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to practice oral sex safely.

Safe Oral Practices 

Always use protection. Even oral sex should involve a condom or dental dam. If you don’t have a dental dam, you can create one from any outside or inside condom. All you need to do is cut it into a square by cutting off the tip and down the side.

For barrier methods, keep in mind that latex and plastic condoms without lubrication are the best for preventing STIs. 

Being in a mutually monogamous relationship can reduce your risk of contracting STDs as well. It prevents either of you from catching an STI outside of the relationship. If one of you does have an STI, a monogamous relationship contains it.

Communication is also essential. Talk to your partner before and after sex about their sexual history and whether they’ve ever tested for an STI. If one of you discovers you have an STI after intercourse, notify the other immediately. 

Regular testing is vital to sexual health. If you’re sexually active, especially if you have multiple partners, you should test frequently. You can see options for quick, convenient testing on Rapid STD Testing‘s home page. 

Some people are more susceptible to certain STIs and should participate in regular screenings. For example, women under 25 are at the highest risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Men who have sex with other men are also at high risk for chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Medical professionals recommend yearly testing for STIs for people with multiple partners, pregnant people, and HIV screenings for everyone between 13-64 years old. 

Testing is the most responsible way to prevent contracting and spreading STIs. Testing positive may seem scary at first. Without proper treatment, STIs can develop into much more serious health conditions. Know that testing is just a necessary step toward getting the treatment you need. 

You Can’t Be Too Safe

Now that you know what STIs cause sore throat, you also know sore throats can be a smaller symptom of a larger problem. 

If you have recently had unprotected sex and have a sore throat, you may have an STI. Some STIs are asymptomatic or have few symptoms. A sore throat could indicate that something more serious is going on, even if it’s the only symptom you have.

When in doubt, test. You can never be too safe. You have plenty of options, from rapid STD tests to lab tests at your local clinic. To take control of your sexual health, order an STD test or visit your local clinic today.

 

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By: RSC Editorial Team
August 2, 2023

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