All your questions about sex and COVID-19 - answered

Not many studies have been conducted on this subject so far. But here’s what we do know, and we hope it helps you make a more informed decision.

Myupchar April 27, 2020 14:31:22 IST
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All your questions about sex and COVID-19 - answered

The spread of COVID-19, and the subsequent lockdown, have turned many of our lives upside down and left us feeling anxious and uncertain about so many things. One of the things that’s on many people’s minds is whether or not sex is safe - and since so many other social activities are off the table, the interest in this query is especially heightened. But, to be honest, there isn’t a simple answer to this question at this time. Not many studies have been conducted on this subject so far. But here’s what we do know, and we hope it helps you make a more informed decision.

All your questions about sex and COVID19  answered

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Does COVID-19 spread through sexual intercourse? 

As of now, no evidence suggests transmission of the novel coronavirus through sexual intercourse. A recent study screened the semen of 34 male patients in China, 31 days after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. They found no traces of the virus in the seminal fluid.

But, sexual activity definitely requires you to be in very close contact of your partner (not the recommended six feet distance away) which means that if they are infected, your chances of contracting the virus are very high. Similarly, intercourse generally involves kissing, which can definitely help transmit the virus as we know that it spread through droplets.

Would wearing a mask during sex make it safer? 

Safer than not wearing a mask during sex? Maybe by a fraction. But would it make it safe in general? Unfortunately, no. A face mask or a face cover is not the ultimate preventative tool. It needs to be used along with maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distance - none of which are really possible during intercourse.

If you need further convincing, a recent study performed on COVID-19 patients found traces of the virus on the outside of the mask (both, surgical and cloth) after they coughed. N95 masks shouldn’t be used for this purpose either since healthcare professionals are in dire need of them to perform their duties and help fight the pandemic.

Can you safely have sex if you live together? 

There are a few things to consider here. If you and your partner have both been isolating together for over two weeks, have not stepped out for any purpose and have not been exposed to anyone who had the virus - then it’s probably safe for you both to engage in sexual activity.

If one of you has stepped outside, you need to consider the risks. Start by asking these questions: Are you or your partner an essential worker, meaning have either of you been in high-risk situations? Have you or your partner gone out to get groceries while taking all possible precautions? In the former situation, it would be advisable to not only refrain from sex but also practice social distancing within the house and sleep in different rooms if possible. In the later, it may be safer but again, some risk would remain.

Another thing to consider here would be your health - do you have any chronic conditions? Are you over 60 years of age? Do you have a weak immune system? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should avoid sexual intercourse and take all precautions possible, even at home.

Is it safe to have sex with someone who does not have COVID-19?

Yes, as safe as sex can be anyway. The real question is - how sure are you that this person does not have COVID-19? You might not know where all they’ve been, who (and what, since the virus can be contracted through contaminated objects) all they’ve been exposed to. The incubation period of the virus is 2-14 days, so if they were exposed recently, they might not show symptoms for another two weeks.

Additionally, a lot of research has been done on asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 and anywhere between 5% to 80% of the cases can have zero or very mild symptoms. This makes it even harder to be sure if one has been exposed to the virus or not.

When can someone who has recovered from COVID-19 have sex? 

If you were a confirmed case of COVID-19, it would be best to consult your doctors on this. If you think you may have had COVID-19, but are feeling fine now - you should still consult a doctor. There are reports from South Korea (and other parts of the world) of "reinfection" - one of the theories is that it may be a result of remnants of the virus that were missed by previous tests.

Even if you feel fine, and even when you have tested negative for COVID-19, there are still chances that the virus hasn’t completely left your system yet. Check with your doctor about the safe waiting period before you can have sex again.

Is there any type of sexual activity that is safer than others? 

Yes, we are going through a pandemic, but that does not mean you need to completely quash your sexual needs. Masturbation is still just as safe. If you have a partner you don’t live with, just think of it as a brief period of long-distance - you can still just as easily have phone sex or even just sext if you’re worried about privacy. You can have a video date - though we wouldn’t recommend doing anything too inappropriate on there since there have been some reports of some apps being hacked.

It’s also absolutely normal to not feel like engaging in any sexual activity during this time. The anxiety that comes along with the pandemic, the stress of working from home while also managing the house and the worry you may feel for your family and friends can suppress your sexual drive. Don’t force yourself to feel something that isn’t coming naturally - once things get better, your sexual drive may return to how it was before.

Would using a condom keep you safe from COVID-19? 

A condom will help keep you safe from sexually transmitted diseases and infections - which you definitely want to avoid right now since the healthcare system is stretched thin as it is. It won’t, however, keep you safe from COVID-19.

COVID-19 isn’t classified as a sexually transmitted disease. But the one way to avoid it — physical distancing — is not possible during sexual intercourse. In fact, sex would be the complete opposite of maintaining social distance - wearing a condom won’t change that.

Additionally, please do not think of using hand sanitizer as a lube. It is only meant for external use and can cause harm and injury to your body.

Will it be safe to have sex after the lockdown? 

The lockdown has been put in place to ensure social distancing - but no country can sit the virus out. The vaccine will most likely take 12-18 months before it is made available to the public. Which means that while the restriction might be lifted eventually, it doesn’t mean business as usual. The virus will still very much be present and many of us will be at risk of contracting it if we don’t take adequate precautions. Sex is not essential to survival, no matter how frustrated you may feel right now. Precautions would include maintaining physical distance from anyone you don’t live with, which means putting your sex life on hold for a while until we know more.

For more information, read our article on How does COVID-19 spread.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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