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Oral sex

Oral sex can take place in various ways.

  • Stimulation of the man’s penis by his partner's mouth and tongue (fellatio, blow job)
  • Stimulation of the woman’s vulva by her partner's mouth, tongue and teeth (cunnilingus)
  • Stimulation of the area around the anus (rimming) by the partner's tongue (anilingus).

Are there any risks?

It is possible to catch infections by oral sex but, in general, the chances are probably lower than with penetrative sex. The risks also depend on whether you are the partner performing oral sex, or the partner who is having it done to them.

Risks to the partner performing oral sex

Gonorrhoea. It is quite easy to catch a gonorrhoea throat infection by performing oral sex on a man who has it. He will have some discharge from the urethral opening (the ‘pee hole’), and this discharge will be teeming with gonorrhoea bacteria. Unfortunately, the discharge is not always noticeable, so neither partner may be aware that he has the infection. Alternatively, he may have noticed a discharge previously, but may have assumed that the problem had cured itself.
 
Similarly, it might be possible to catch gonorrhoea throat infection by performing oral sex on a woman who has gonorrhoea.
 
Chlamydia. You can catch chlamydia in your throat by performing oral sex on a man who has it. A man who has a chlamydia infection may have pain passing urine and/or a discharge, or he may have no symptoms.
 
Warts. It is not a good idea to perform oral sex on a man who has genital warts. The warts may not be obvious – check around the edge of the head of the penis under the foreskin, and just inside the opening of the urethra (‘pee hole’). Although the risk is not great, it is possible to develop a wart on the roof of your mouth as a result of oral sex. The wart may take weeks or even months to appear. If you develop one, go to your local genitourinary medicine clinic.
 
Similarly, it is possible to develop a wart on your lips from performing oral sex on a woman who has genital warts. Again, if this happens, your local genitourinary medicine clinic is the place to go.
 
HIV. It is possible to catch HIV by oral sex. Although the risk is low, it is not absolutely safe, and oral sex with someone who might be HIV positive cannot be described as ‘safe sex’.
 
The body fluids of a person who has HIV (including semen and the natural fluids that lubricate the vagina) will contain the virus. Therefore HIV can infect the cells that line the mouth of the person performing oral sex, and then enter the bloodstream (Journal of Virology 2003;77:3470–6). The risk is likely to be greater when performing oral sex on a man than a woman. Withdrawing the penis before the man’s orgasm (ejaculation) would lessen the risk; however, when a man is sexually aroused, small amounts of semen leak out before ejaculation so infection could still occur.
 
Syphilis is uncommon in the UK, but is increasing. A study reported in the journal Communicable Disease and Public Health in 2001 found that many of the people infected were homosexual men who had oral sex without using a condom.
 
Mouth and throat cancer. Oral sex can lead to mouth or throat cancer, but the risk is tiny. The reason is that the genital area can be infected with type 16 human papillomavirus (HPV). This type of papillomavirus can cause mouth and throat cancers (New England Journal of Medicine 2007;365:1944–56).

Risks to the partner who is receiving oral sex

Herpes. Apart from being bitten, catching genital herpes from a cold sore on the face is the main risk. Cold sores are also infectious at the tingling stage before the sore has developed. If your partner has recurrent cold sores, he or she will recognize this tingling feeling, and should avoid performing oral sex until the sore has healed completely.
 
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea. In theory, it is possible to catch gonorrhoea or chlamydia by receiving oral sex from someone who has it in their mouth. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the mouth tends to be mainly at the back of the mouth (throat) and does not usually cause a sore throat or any other symptoms.
 
HIV. Contact between your genitals and the mouth of someone with HIV means that your genitals are in contact with their saliva, which will contain the virus. The amount of virus in the saliva would be very small and there would probably be a very low risk of infection, but it would not be absolutely safe.

Safe oral sex

  • Do not perform oral sex on a man who has a discharge, or has recently had one that was not treated.
  • Do not perform oral sex on anyone whose genitals look unhealthy or unclean.
  • If your partner has a cold sore on the face or lip, do not let him or her perform oral sex on you. Likewise, do not offer oral sex if you have a cold sore or think you might be getting one, or have any ulcers in your mouth.
  • Some experts say you should avoid mouth-to-genital contact unless you are very sure that your partner is HIV negative.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth beforehand, because this could open up cracks in the gums which would make it easier for infection (such as HIV) to enter.
  • Consider using condoms for oral sex. If you are concerned about infection during oral sex, but do not like the idea of condoms because of their off-putting rubbery taste, try flavoured ones. Textured, knobbed or ribbed condoms are not suitable for oral sex, because they can make the mouth sore.
  • Swallowing semen during oral sex is not harmful. The main risk of infection is in the mouth (see above). Swallowing semen is unlikely to increase the risk of HIV, because the stomach contains acid that destroys HIV.
  • ‘Rimming’ (licking round the anus) is not to be recommended. The lower bowel contains many bacteria and viruses, which could enter the mouth, even if the anal area is washed beforehand.

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Monday, December 3rd 2012

 

Chlamydia is the commonest sexually shared infection. Click on the video below to find out what GP and comedian Dr Phil Hammond has to say about it.

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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 15/09/2014 at 04:24

My boyfriend gave me oral sex right after dinner and did not brush his teeth or rinse his mouth we also then had sex what is my risk of getting an infection?

Posted by Optional on 27/07/2014 at 12:42

Is there any gratification for a women who performs oral sex, or is it only for the men upon whom she performs, many women tend to gratify men sexually performing oral sex, rather than a quicky like penetrating her!

Posted by MouthQuestion on 02/06/2014 at 06:41

I was performing oral sex on a man and now I have a bulged vein on the inside of my top lip. Is there something I need to do or someone I need to see or will it go away on its own?

Posted by Optional on 05/05/2014 at 08:45

If i gave my girlfriend oral sex and white dry spots showed after what does that exactly om worried

Posted by Optional on 22/04/2014 at 05:33

Is it possible that my boyfriend has an infection as I seem to get huge spots around my chin/mouth n neck a day or two after I've given him oral sex?

Posted by MR X on 05/04/2014 at 02:21

THE DAY AFTER GIVING MY GIRLFRIEND ORAL SEX THE TIP OF MY TONGUE HAS BEEN VERY PAINFUL, AND SORE, HARD TO SEE A COLD SORE OR ANYTHING, WHAT COULD IT BE?

Posted by Optional on 01/11/2013 at 11:06

I sucked the tip of his dick really hard be ause he seemed to like it but now i have these red spots because of it is that Normal?

Posted by Optional on 12/09/2013 at 06:07

Question can you or is it possible to break out with a rash all over your face from giving a guy oral sex that has chlamydia?

Posted by shelly on 04/05/2013 at 08:16

Hi my fellas penis becomes really itchy after I have given him oral sex, could he be allergic to my saliva?

Posted by Optional on 12/03/2013 at 02:20

I gave oral sex to my boyfriend we've both been checked already and I noticed I have this red spots in the back of my throat! What could it be??

Posted by Optional on 01/03/2013 at 11:06

Im just after gettinG thrush and my girlfriend now has a cold sore.. Is it possible she is infected too and should get checked out?

Posted by Pauly on 05/12/2012 at 01:42

If I have thrush can I pass it on to my wife by performing oral sex on her

Posted by embarrassingproblems.com on 03/12/2012 at 03:37

To Gay man for inclusiveness, thank you for your constructive feedback. The text has been updated accordingly.

Posted by Gay man for incluiveness on 30/11/2012 at 02:29

Why is it said that only a woman can stimulate a man's penis and only a man can stimulate a woman's vulva? Do you think gay people don't exist or that we won't refer to your site? Why not gender-neutral statements like "One partner can stimulate the area round the other partner’s anus (rimming) with his or her tongue" for all these acts? I hope this was simply carelessness on the part of embarrassingproblems.com and that you will use more inclusive and/or gender-neutral language in the future. Thanks.

Posted by embarrassingproblems.com on 19/11/2012 at 02:29

To beto, please see the information on our cold sore pages, for example: www.embarrassingproblems.com/problem/cold-sores/cold-sore-actions It is you who must be careful not to give oral sex to anyone until the sore has healed completely.

Posted by beto on 18/11/2012 at 01:29

if i have a cold sore on my lips, can my gf give me a blowjob without fear that i will transmit the virus to her?

Posted by Valkryie on 04/11/2012 at 01:59

I have a super hard penis which straight up sticking on my abs when I'm fully erect... I can't bend it down very much as it will cause pain... It been a trouble for me as I can only perform limited sexual position... I did some research on the google, most of the people said it is due to my tight ligament and stretching it always after erection will solve the problem... Is this true?

Posted by Lisa on 31/05/2012 at 10:06

I gave oral sex to my boyfriend we've both been checked already and I noticed I have this red spots in th back of my throat! What could it be??

Posted by Embarrassing Problems team on 21/05/2012 at 02:45

Thank you to 'Optional' on 17/05/2012 for the yoghurt suggestion. Please see our section on Natural Remedies for Thrush in Women on www.embarrassingproblems.com/problem/genital-infections/thrush-women, which describes how to use bio (live) yoghurt for this purpose.

Posted by Optional on 17/05/2012 at 04:14

If you have a yeast infection just go to the grocery store and buy PLAIN yogurt. Dip a tampon in it and insert it for about 1-3 hours, rinse off and repeat if necessary. If problem persists then see your OBGYN. This really works and is much cheaper than any over-the-counter medication.

Posted by crystal on 23/04/2012 at 01:44

Ewwwwwwe mister. Well I dont know how soneone could ever even enjoy sex during a yeast infection. Ive had one and it was awful. The reason that you may be getting sores can be because a vaginal yeast infection is contagious as long as you have a Wet Place for the bacteria to grow. In this case Your mouth........ You can get a sore and Your body maybe fight it off naturally but if you get a full blown outbreak.... You will want to see a dr. You could get "hoof & mouth" or thrush .....Dont be stupid if you think "what is this on my body" (in this case mouth) it probably is not suppose to be there. Also i have Found that over the counter treatment for yeast infection is awful such as "monistat" and zinc oxide is awesome for topical comfort. But Your own good bacteria is the best way to prevent or treat a yeast infection. There are different types of probiotics and make sure if Your girlfriend decides to take a pro b there are different kinds. Make sure the pro b bacteria she takes is made for vaginal health... Like "RePHresh" clever. Or eat yogurt twice a day until gone Then eat yogurt at least once a day. Probiotics are an important part of a womans diet.

Posted by Christy on 18/04/2012 at 04:58

my boyfrnd and i were having a debate on wether you could or couldnt get cancer in the mouth by giving oral sex if he had a mouth sore blister .... now we know ...... thank you :).....p.s. he was rite i was wrong.....

Posted by Cherry on 17/04/2012 at 01:14

Quite educative.thanks a lot

Posted by Lexie on 20/03/2012 at 05:00

Umm so u cant get oral herpes from periforming oral sex on some 1 who haz genital herpies

Posted by please help on 01/03/2012 at 02:19

İ get sores on the inside of my mouth after giving my girlfriend oral sex it has happened the last 3 or 4 times...any help?she had a minor yeast infection a while ag can it have anything to do with that?please help?

Posted by Optional on 28/02/2012 at 04:41

My boyfriend and I are both virgins, I just recently gave him head and it feels like there is a small ball of something in the back of my throat. Has this happened to anyone else or do you think it's just mucus or something? I'm concerned because I don't want to catch an STD, I have been tested but I have not asked him if he has been because, well I don't want to offend him. There is also some dryness. Please help!

Posted by el sombrero on 23/02/2012 at 01:13

gf is clean and smells fresh everytime we have sex and regularly trims her hairs which is very nice but i notice i always gets small pimples around the mouth after we have oral sex which we both enjoy very much and when i shave it hurts where the razor touches the skin ... what could be wrong? is she sick or am i allergic to her discharges? we never encountered std / sti and i uses condoms when i penetrate her

Posted by Optional on 02/02/2012 at 01:45

My boyfriend is currently taking antibiotics for pneumonia. Is it okay to still perform oral sex on him?

Posted by Cranebrook on 29/01/2012 at 09:45

My female partners tongue goes white after giving me a blow job. Is this normal or should something be done about it?

Posted by London on 07/01/2012 at 02:24

If my husband has had active warts in the past but has no visible ones now, is it safe to give home a blow job? Also are warts more contagious if visible, or are is the virus just as contagious without visible warts,I know that you can still have the virus once they are treated? Thanks

Posted by Optional on 07/01/2012 at 03:47

same sex partner for last 18 months..after intercourse...vaginal....itching and discomfort...see partner every 8-10 days.. no odor. just itchy discomfort what is this? thx

Posted by Optional on 20/12/2011 at 08:39

Hi although this is embarrasing i have to ask why i get a sore throat for a few days after giving my partner oral sex.Iv only recently started getting irritation not so much pain more discomfort after giving him oral sex.We have been together for 6yrs he has cheated in the past many times i jst wonder if its an STD can you help with any info?Thanks.

Posted by Optional on 31/10/2011 at 06:22

Thank you so much ....

Posted by Advice on 31/10/2011 at 01:02

Optional 26/10/2011, That is the classic symptoms that you have a vaginal infection, either yeast or bacteria. Nothing to do with viruses. Your partner is an idiot. You need to consult a GP to find out which the problem is, and either use antibiotics (to kill bacteria) or yoghurt (promotes bacteria, if there is too much yeast) to get rid of the problem.

Posted by Optional on 26/10/2011 at 08:40

not as such a comment, but I had experienced that during sex I got a smelly white discharge and which was realy smelling bad, my partner requested that we must go for a antiretroviral treatment, please advise this is the first time I experienced this, and the sex was painful.

Posted by Uday on 24/08/2011 at 09:59

I perform oral sex by licking clitoris vigorously . After that my Girl friend has suffered urine infection after a week. Is it because of oral sex ??

Posted by kg73 on 21/07/2011 at 04:19

Have always had a problem with the taste of semen, but recently found an ad in Cosmo for a thing called Masque Sexual Flavors that helps change the taste of semen. Has anyone used this product or heard of it? I'd like to know how it works. You can check it out at yourmasque.com Thanks!

Posted by Optional on 21/07/2011 at 12:48

Can I perform oral sex on my girlfriend if she is a virgin? Will anything weird happen or come out of her vagina?

Posted by Optional on 30/04/2011 at 04:23

I have HSV-1. My husband does not have herpes. If I perform oral sex on him, can I give him HSV-2 genital herpes?

Posted by Optional on 14/04/2011 at 08:51

Can an infected tooth get worse when swallowing semen?

Posted by wow on 27/02/2011 at 07:19

im reading all these comments and its shocking to find out most of you are crazy. seriously? screwing random people at bus stops? AND also if your boyfriend has a disease, dont be giving him a blowjob unprotected. all of you are dumb to be sharing these stories and then to ask "am i okay, do i have this std?" IF YOUR THAT CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR HEALTH, GO TO THE ER OR YOUR LOCAL DOCTOR. Please spare us the details.

Posted by Optional on 19/01/2011 at 12:21

Hi A few months ago - I received oral sex from a woman who has aids. Since then I have been worried sick that I will have it too. I am too scared and embarassed to get tested though. Is it likely that HIV could be caught this way? Since then I have had a few health problems - a very bad cold - and have also developed bad anal itching - worse than I can remember having before. I really don't want to go for a test - is it necassary?

Posted by mark on 06/01/2011 at 04:58

I am being treated for warts on my penis but is it safe to stil get a blow job from my boyfriend without a condom?

Posted by prince on 29/11/2010 at 01:34

av got some skin reactions - flaking n ruff skin after performin oral sex on my girl's vagina that refusing to go totally.... it it went after using lamisil cream , it came back but was told by my doc 2 continue with d lamisil cream but it has refused to go.. av aken many other medications ;ike ketaconazole, itranox, griseofulvin wit out success... ple advise me

Posted by Lily on 05/10/2010 at 11:43

giving my guy pleasure by giving him oral is something i just enjoy, there may be risks but there seems to be risks in everything these days. i will continue to give him oral and even let him cum in my mouth every now and then. i do this as i love him

Posted by Optional on 15/09/2010 at 08:13

I dislike oral sex but I want to do it to make happy my partner... he feel not good when i refused to do oral sex.

Posted by Optional on 09/09/2010 at 02:46

i always get peer pressured into giving guys blow jobs at partys and i always end up getting it and they say i am the best at giving it. the other day i found puss in my throught. i think i have a std

Posted by Optional on 23/07/2010 at 11:26

Very helpful read. My mates blow treats cause a white paste to form on my anus. I'm assuming this builds up from sweat but this white paste is embarassing and turns my face red. I will pass along these tips to said pal in the hopes he performs better oral shankers.

Posted by karen on 12/06/2010 at 03:12

well i like oral sex with my boyfriend when he performing it on me.but i never perform oral on him.i think oral sex like any form of sex with strangers should be treated with extream caution as there is no protection from stds if a man is performing it on a woman....girls take care....karen.

Posted by Optional on 26/02/2010 at 10:45

Great helpful information - clear and easy to read

Posted by Optional on 19/02/2010 at 05:27

Thank you for the insight, I never knew about all the risks that were involved in giving a blow job. My husband loves it too much and sometimes I give it to him without prior hygienic caution taken. Now I know how best I will be giving to him. Continue with the same good spirit.

Posted by Rodreguiz on 28/01/2010 at 04:27

last month i took it in the anus from two gentlemen i met at the bus stop, i think one of them had a wart , but i wasnt sure.. what do they really look like?

Posted by mark on 06/11/2009 at 09:15

I have had sum warts growing around my anus i have never had anal sex what can i do

Posted by Anonymous on 22/02/2009 at 04:27

How long after having oral sex should u wait to get checked out if you think you may av cought a std?

Posted by amir chodhri on 20/02/2009 at 01:42

u people r doing a great job.God bless u.

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