When we're sick, we feel pretty miserable. We're feverish and achy with low energy. That's not to say that sometimes, we wonder if a bit of nooky may make us feel better. But is sex when you have the flu a good idea?
"Influenza is a serious virus that can be potentially life-threatening, especially for pregnant women, children, and the elderly," said Dr. Christine Sterling, an award-winning ob-gyn and women's health expert practicing at West Coast OB-GYN in San Diego. "A person with the flu can be contagious for two days before having symptoms and up to seven to 10 days after symptom onset. Because the flu can be life-threatening for many, preventing transmission even among otherwise healthy individuals is important."
"The recent flu epidemic is a cause of concern both nationwide and abroad. Emerging data has shown this recent flu strain is responsible for significant morbidity, with increased hospital visits as well as an unprecedented number of deaths for this stage in the flu season, according to the CDC," said Dr. Arno Rotgans, endovascular surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates.
The current flu vaccine shows to be 10 percent to 13 percent effective, which increases the anxiety of the public in spreading the disease even more. "The advice from the CDC and healthcare providers to decrease the spread of the flu is to still get the flu vaccine; avoid contact with others, especially immunocompromised individuals, children, and the elderly; wear a mask; wash your hands; disinfect surfaces you have been in contact with; and take antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu if early in the course of the disease," Dr. Rotgans said.
But what does that mean for getting up close and personal? "Human sex in its purest description is the physical interaction between members of the same or opposite sex, involving some form of penile, vaginal, or anal involvement. When it comes to this particular form of sex, there is no evidence that the flu virus is able to survive or capable to be transmitted in this fashion," Dr. Rotgans said. "The mucosa or lining of the airways is conducive to an environment where the flu virus can easily grow and spread in the secretions of the respiratory system. This is not the case however for the mucosa of the sexual organs and anal cavity and the secretions they produce such as semen or vaginal secretions." For this reason, the flu cannot be transmitted through sexual intercourse in its most fundamental sense.
Sex today, however, encompasses a broader experience. Sex, for many people, involves being intimate through caressing, touching, talking, and kissing, in other words, a more affectionate means of having sex. "Because of this interaction, it is reasonable that the inadvertent exchange of salivary secretions, either through kissing, sneezing, and coughing (known symptoms of the flu), the spreads of flu-containing air droplets from the hands to your partner, can cause the transmission of the flu virus," Dr. Rotgans said. Theoretically, therefore, when compared to transmission of the virus in the community, there is a potential for the spread of the flu virus in this most intimate form of sex.
Ultimately, when you are sick, sex is probably not the best idea. You are likely feeling pretty crappy if you have the flu — feverish, fatigued, sore throat, achy, not to mention potentially short of breath. "The flu is probably a pretty good libido killer," said Jennifer Wider, MD. Sex is not going to be very high up on your list of things to do.
But if it is, you have your partner to think about. "New research shows us that this year's flu is super contagious. Not only through respiratory droplets, but you can pass it along just by breathing," Dr. Wider said. "Doctor's advice — lay low, drink plenty of fluids, and rest, and if you're in the mood, masturbate." This will help keep your partner healthy!