Article by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP
There is an increase in the number of STIs being found in women over 50 – in the past 10 years, the number of women over 50 with STIs has doubled.
There could be a number of reasons for this – STI awareness campaigns are often targeted at under 25s and may have been missed by over 50s. We spoke to Dr Lizzie at The STI Clinic to answer some of the most common questions she is asked.
1. Can I get STIs from oral sex?
Yes – gonorrhoea, genital herpes and syphilis are the most common infections transmitted through oral sex. Chlamydia, HIV, genital warts, public lice and hepatitis A, B, and C are less commonly transmitted – but they can still be spread orally.
The only way to prevent the spread of STIs through oral sex is by wearing a condom or a dental dam when engaging in oral sex. It’s important to take the proper precautions to stop the spread of STIs.
2. Is it normal to bleed after sex?
Sometimes, although it isn’t always harmless. If you experience any kind of bleeding after sex, please see your GP.
Bleeding can be a sign of a wide range of things (not always an STI.) It can signal vaginal dryness, damage to the vagina, non-cancerous growths, or cervical erosion. In some cases, it could also be a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer. If you experience bleeding after sex, visit a GP to rule out any serious issues.
3. Can I have sex if I have a UTI?
You can – but it’s probably best not to. Most people won’t feel up to it, but if you do have sex, remember that a UTI can irritate the sensitive tissue in your urinary tract and it can make things even worse. It can also increase the risk of complications developing from a UTI and can put your partner at risk. It’s probably not worth it, and best to wait until you’re fully recovered.
Doctors usually recommend that you wait until all your symptoms have cleared up and you’ve finished the full round of your treatment before having sex again.
When to get tested for STIs
4. How do I know when to get tested for STIs?
It’s always a good idea to get tested if you’re worried at all about STIs. It’s a good idea to go and get tested if:
- You have never been tested before
- If you have symptoms such as itching, bleeding or pain in the genitals.
- If you have recently had unprotected sex
- If you have a new sexual partner
- If you have no symptoms – many people infected with STIs don’t have any symptoms at all.
5. What is PREP and who uses it?
PrEP is an important HIV medication which can stop HIV negative people from becoming infected. PrEP is a safe and effective method for preventing the spread of HIV and is recommended for anyone at high risk of contracting HIV. This includes HIV negative people who are in a relationship with a HIV positive partner, or anyone who injects drugs.
6. Can you get an STI from sitting on a toilet?
No – it is not possible to catch an STI through skin to seat contact. They are spread through infected fluids or skin, and bacteria cannot live long enough to be caught through sitting on a toilet seat.
7. Can a person treat their own STI?
It’s possible to self-test yourself for a lot of STIs – there are chlamydia kits available at pharmacies which can be sent in the post and you will be texted your results – but it is not possible to treat an STI on your own.
In order to fully be cured of an STI, medical advice and prescriptions are needed. Make sure you seek health advice from a professional and don’t try to treat it on your own.
8. Can I get an STI from fingers?
There hasn’t been much research on whether you can catch an STI from fingers – but it doesn’t seem like it’s easily done this way. If there are bodily fluids on the fingers, then in theory you can catch an STI this way, although you are at much less of a risk than with oral or penetrative sex.
9. Can I get an STI from public swimming pool?
No, an STI can only be spread through person to person contact. The bacteria will not survive long enough in the water to infect other people. The only way you can contract an STI in a swimming pool is if you are having sex with an infected person in the pool.
The only way to truly know if you’re infected with an STI is to get tested. If you’re worried about whether you might have an infection, speak to a GP or visit an STI clinic as soon as possible.
Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The STI Clinic: https://www.thesticlinic.com/