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Semen Allergy

A semen allergy, also known as human seminal plasma hypersensitivity (HSP) — is the allergic reaction to certain proteins in men’s semen.

Although a semen allergy is often under-diagnosed, experts approximate that up to 40,000 women in the U.S. live with the condition. Men can also be allergic to their own semen, a condition known as a post-orgasmic illness syndrome.

Hypersensitivity can occur in women after the first time they have sex as well as develop suddenly in a long-term relationship with the same partner.

An allergic reaction often includes redness, burning, swelling, itching, or pain and appears on the skin that came into contact with semen. Hives can also appear on the skin that hasn’t been exposed to sperm.

Women most often experience symptoms on the vulva and inside the vagina. Men’s symptoms occur on the shaft of the penis and in the groin area. The mouth, chest, hands, and anus can also be affected. In severe cases, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction — is a possibility. Symptoms usually begin within 30 minutes after exposure and last up to a few days, depending on the individual.

Although hypersensitivity can develop at any age, many women begin experiencing an allergic reaction around their early 30s. The condition can sometimes be mistaken for sexually transmitted infections, vaginitis, or yeast infections, causing a delay in a proper diagnosis.

Semen allergies are mainly caused by proteins in men’s sperm. In rare cases, the trigger is food allergens or certain medications taken before the intercourse that will cause an allergic reaction in a partner. Ways to manage a semen allergy are:

1. DESENSITIZING. An allergist will use your partner’s diluted semen to put inside your vaginal canal at certain intervals until you can tolerate undiluted semen exposure without experiencing an allergic reaction. After the desensitization therapy, you may have to engage in sex with your partner every day to maintain immunity.

2. AVOIDING CONTACT WITH SEMEN. As with the other allergens, the best way to prevent allergic reactions is to stay away from the trigger. Using condoms every single time you have sex can keep you in the clear.

3. TAKING ANTIHISTAMINES BEFORE SEX. Before engaging in sexual activity, you may take an over-the-counter antihistamine to help reduce the symptoms. However, this method isn’t foolproof. If you suspect you may have a semen allergy, talk to your OB/GYN, who will refer you to an allergist.

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