COVID concerns: To have sex or not is the question

A US-based infectious disease specialist dispels doubts and provides guidance on the most tabooed subject as lockdown keeps families home-bound

Since the virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks, it would be risky to come into contact with a person's spit through kissing or other sexual activities. Pic: Pixabay

A question that many would have in their minds and yet hesitate to ask is: Should one have sex at a time when COVID is raging all around?

Dr William F. Marshall, III MD, an infectious disease specialist with Mayo Clinic, US, has answers to the question with all ifs and buts.

Firstly, any person is capable of giving and receiving the virus due to close contact (within 6 feet or 2 meters) with another person — whether he or she is engaged in sexual activity or not.

Since the virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks, it would be risky to come into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities. “People with COVID-19 could spread respiratory droplets onto their skin and personal belongings, which could then transmit to the sexual partner by touching these surfaces and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes,” said Dr William F. Marshall in a blog written on the Mayo Clinic site.

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Besides, the coronavirus could spread through contact with feces, which means a person could get the infection from sexual activities that expose him or her to fecal matter.

Dr Marshall said there is currently no evidence to prove COVID-19 is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, though one needs to know that the virus has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from the virus. “Further research is needed to determine if the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted sexually,” he said.

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Having sex with a partner you trust or know (wife or husband) could be the safest bet, of course depending on symptoms shown by your partner. Dr Marshall says it is advisable to keep a distance if you or your partner isn’t feeling well or think you might have COVID-19. “Don’t kiss or have sex with each other until you’re both feeling better. Staying away from each other for at least 14 days is advisable,” he adds.

If the community spread is rampant, like the ongoing second wave in India, it’s important to keep distance between yourself and others because many people are asymptomatic (they have COVID but show no symptoms). “Besides, if you or your partner has existing chronic condition and is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, it is better to avoid sex,” he advises.

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If you are sexually active with someone outside of your household, consider these precautions to reduce your risk of contracting the virus:

  1. Minimize the number of sexual partners you have.

2. Avoid sex partners who have symptoms of COVID-19.

3. Avoid kissing.

4. Avoid sexual behaviors that have a risk of fecal-oral transmission or that involve semen or urine.

5. Use condoms and dental dams during oral and anal sex.

6. Wear a mask during sexual activity.

7. Wash your hands and shower before and after sexual activity.

8. Wash sex toys before and after using them.

9. Use soap or alcohol wipes to clean the area where you have sexual activity.

Look beyond sex for pleasure

The safest thing to do during such critical times is to masturbate. “Be sure to wash your hands and any sex toys used, both before and after masturbating. You might also consider engaging in sexual activity with partners via text, photos or videos, ideally using an encrypted platform to provide privacy protection,” said Dr Marshall.

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