We know that social distancing, washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and generally following guidelines from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But you may have questions about other possible ways you can potentially contract the virus, whether it's from handling groceries, opening packages, or having sex. Information on how COVID-19 spreads is limited, but here's what you should know about the transmission of COVID-19 through sex.
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
First, it's important to understand how the virus is spread. Medical experts have found that if you are within a six-foot radius of someone who has COVID-19 (whether they are asymptomatic or not) and you come into direct contact with particles from their mucus or saliva — say, for example, if they cough or sneeze — you are at risk of catching COVID-19. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent contracting the virus, which is why experts are placing an emphasis on the basics like washing your hands often and abiding by social distancing recommendations.
Is It Safe to Have Sex During the COVID-19 Outbreak?
Now, it's time to talk about sex and COVID-19. No, it's not the sexiest conversation to have right now, but it's important to know. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), other coronaviruses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) "do not efficiently transmit through sex." However, the NYC DOHMH notes that COVID-19 has been found in the feces of people who have been infected with the virus. So activities like rimming (mouth on anus) may spread the virus if particles from someone's feces enter your mouth. The virus is also easily passed through kissing, so the DOHMH recommends limiting your kissing partners.
To help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, it's recommended you use dental dams and condoms to reduce the contact of saliva and feces during oral and anal sex. Currently, there's no information showing that COVID-19 can spread through semen or vaginal fluids but this could potentially change as more research is conducted.
How to Have Safe Sex During the COVID-19 Pandemic
To best protect yourself from contracting or spreading COVID-19, the NYC DOHMH suggests masturbating — because you're your safest sex partner. Be sure to wash your hands and sex toys, if you choose to use them, for 20 seconds before and after masturbation. If you live with someone you've had sex with before, it's OK to continue having sex with them, according to the NYC DOHMH.
If you have sexual partners who don't live with you, the NYC DOHMH advises avoiding close contact and sex with people outside of your household as well as minimizing the amount of sexual partners you have during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you're a sex worker, "consider taking a break from in-person dates," and try other options like video dates and sexting to protect your health and the health of others. Ultimately, if you are having sex, be sure to wash your hands before and after and to also disinfect any additional items you may use such as sex toys and devices with screens and keyboards.
Within your household, the NYC DOHMH advises avoiding kissing and having sex if you or your partner are not feeling well or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, if you or your partner is at greater risk for catching COVID-19 — people with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, and those who are immunocompromised — it's advised that you avoid having sex. If you think you or your partner may have the virus, here's information on how to treat yourself at home.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.