Sex in Times of Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know to Stay Safe



COVID-19 is a dangerous disease that has a high mortality rate among specific sections of society. Older adults and males are more likely to die of it than young adults [1].

Additionally, due to viral mutation and variance in the genetics of the different population groups, its impact differs in different countries.

coronavirus

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COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, it does not mean that it cannot spread through sex; all it means is that it will not spread through body fluids like vaginal secretions or male ejaculate.

Sex is quite essential for humans for psychological wellbeing. Some people cannot practice abstinence for long. Thus, there are many things to understand in the times of COVID-19.

Sex is a very intimate act that involves much more than the mere contact of sexual organs. It includes hugging, kissing, patting, showing affection in various ways, and sleeping together. It is a very close interaction between two people – which is just the opposite of social distancing.

So, Yes, having sex would increase the risk of transmission of infection in multiple ways.

How may a person contract COVID-19 during the sex?

Assuming that one of the partners is living with COVID-19 infection, another can easily get infected by kissing that individual. Sexual partners may breathe, cough, sneeze very close to each other, thus increasing the risk [2]. Such things are natural during sexual encounters.

However, COVID-19 does not spread through vaginal fluids or semen/ejaculate.

Technically this means that it is the closeness/intimacy, which is a necessary part of the sexual act, that considerably increases the risk of contracting the infection.

There is no reason to confuse it with STDs, as they only spread through direct contact via unprotected sex. Just take an example of the most dreaded infection HIV, which cannot disseminate by hugging, kissing, eating together, but only through the exchange of certain body fluids (semen, vaginal fluids, blood transfusion, needle sharing, and so on).

COVID-19 primarily spread through droplets released in the air by coughing and sneezing [3]. It is in high concentration both in the nasal area and in saliva. Droplets released from the mouth or nasal cavity may remain suspended there for something like 20 minutes.

Understanding some lesser-known facts about COVID-19

COVID-19 is highly contagious, and it more readily spreads than many other respiratory infections like flu or influenza. This has left researchers wondering whether COVID-19 is airborne or not [4].

Airborne means that it can remain suspended in the air for hours, and may travel much larger distances depending on the conditions. This also increases the risk of catching such an infection by just visiting a person living with the disease.

Another essential thing to understand is that researchers think that it is wrong to compare COVID-19 to influenza or flu. It is much more probable to cause pneumonia. It causes severe lung infection in most of the cases [5].

This severe lung infection results in the inability to breathe normally, and extreme systemic toxicity leading to multi-organ failure, and thus fatal outcomes in many.

Despite many unproven recommendations on various online sources, it is vital to understand that strong immunity is not a guarantee that COVID-19 will not harm someone.

Firstly, most people do not have immunity to this particular strain of coronavirus; thus, it can cause severe disease in just any.

Secondly, in many cases, strong immunity may mean more significant inflammation, lung congestion, and higher severity of the disease [6]. Thus, it is more complex to predict how the body might respond to the infection.

Do Condoms protect you against COVID-19

Technically, yes. Practically, no. Since it is not a sexually transmitted disease, using condoms would not protect someone from contracting the infection.

Risk increases by merely coming very close to a person. For sexual acts, coming closer is essential. This means that despite all the precautions, there would always be a risk of contracting the infection.

This does not mean that one should not wear condoms, as they still protect from other STDs like gonorrhea, HIV, or syphilis, and so on. STDs may considerably weaken someone, and make more prone to other infections.

Additionally, condoms are one of the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Sex and COVID-19: precautions to take

One should take all the usual precautions like wear masks, avoid going out for no reason, practicing social distancing, avoid rubbing eyes, frequently washing hands, and so on.

Personal hygiene may work for both the partners, so wash hands carefully, preferably have a shower before sex to avoid bringing infection from the outside – this is perhaps the most critical thing that healthy sexual partners can do for each other.

For safer sex, one can take additional precautions like either practicing abstinence, or avoiding sex with lesser-known people. It is always a good idea to have sex with a single partner, as it considerably reduces the risk of coronavirus and STDs.

If a person does not know his or her sexual partner well, it is better to make some effort to understand the person better.

Pay particular attention to how a person looks (absence of facial redness, runny nose, fever, and so on), look for any flu-like symptoms or do a person sneeze or cough. It is a good idea to inquire about travel history.

It is also essential to know if someone close to your sexual partner is affected by COVID-19 or not, like a mother, sister, friend, colleague, etc.

Avoid having sexual contact with a person who keeps moving freely for no reason, even if that person has no symptoms.

Remember that COVID-19 has an incubation period of 14 days. Many people may continue to spread the virus and may develop some mild symptoms later in the stage.

Most steps needed to avoid catching the infection are quite logical, and yet many fail to follow them.

Sex in the times of COVID-19 may slightly increase the risk of contracting the disease, but not considerably with the right knowledge.

References:

  1. CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published on February 11, 2020. Accessed April 6, 2020. [ link ]
  2. What is COVID-19 and how is it spread? Accessed April 6, 2020. [ link ]
  3. Modes of transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for IPC precaution recommendations. Accessed April 6, 2020. [ link ]
  4. Lewis D. Is the coronavirus airborne? Experts can’t agree. Nature. April 2020. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-00974-w
  5. Han X, Cao Y, Jiang N, et al. Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (COVID-19) Progression Course in 17 Discharged Patients: Comparison of Clinical and Thin-Section CT Features During Recovery. Clin Infect Dis. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa271
  6. Shi Y, Wang Y, Shao C, et al. COVID-19 infection: the perspectives on immune responses. Cell Death & Differentiation. March 2020:1-4. doi:10.1038/s41418-020-0530-3
  7. Image source: Pixabay



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