Believe it or not, but one can actually be allergic to semen. A semen allergy, also known as human seminal plasma hypersensitivity or HSP, is an allergic reaction to the proteins found in semen.
Semen allergies are more common in women, with approximately 40,000 cases in the United States per year. However, they can on occasion occur in men—yes, men can be allergic to their own semen. When a man is allergic to his own semen, it is called post-orgasmic illness syndrome. In a documented case of a 45-year-old Egyptian man, he reported, "severe fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion with severe muscular, bone and joint pains so that opening his hands becomes very painful. The condition is accompanied by headache, a pale face, eye irritation, low concentration, anxiety and dizziness with severe itching," according to a case study published by F1000 Research.
Women with HSP report symptoms such as redness, burning, swelling, pain, hives and itching when they come in contact with semen. For women, HSP typically occurs on the vulva or inside of the vaginal canal. When men experience POIS, they experience symptoms on the shaft of their penis or on the skin above their genitals.
However, people with HSP and POIS can experience symptoms on any area of the body that comes in contact with semen, including but not limited to the hands, face, mouth, chest or anus.
While some report localized symptoms, others have reported symptoms throughout the body—as seen through the case study above. Symptoms can start several seconds to several minutes after exposure to semen, lasting between hours to a few days depending on the severity of their condition. In severe cases, it is possible for a person to experience anaphylaxis—with symptoms including wheezing, difficulty breathing, swollen throat or tongue, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If someone experiences anaphylaxis from semen, they should seek medical assistance immediately.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, whether mild or severe, it is important to consult with a doctor. HSP is known to be very rare and many women misdiagnose themselves with it, when in actually they may have a sexually transmitted infection, chronic vaginitis, a yeast infection or chronic vaginosis.
If someone truly believes that they have HSP, the doctor will need to do an intradermal test. This will require a sample of your partner's semen, which they will inject under your skin. If the symptoms appear during the test, then someone can be diagnosed with HSP.
If you are diagnosed with HSP, there are several methods of treatment to minimize or eliminate the symptoms. The first being, wearing a condom. However, if you and your partner don't use condoms—it is possible to do desensitization therapy with an allergist or immunologist. The process involves exposing a vagina or penis to a diluted semen solution for 20 minutes at a time, upping the semen quantity in order to build immunity as symptoms decrease. A doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine or an EpiPen, depending on a person's severity.
A semen allergy may make it difficult for a woman to conceive. While HSP doesn't have an affect on fertility, the symptoms can make it extremely difficult to have sexual intercourse. If someone's symptoms are extremely severe, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be an option. In this case, the semen will be washed free of proteins before insertion.
Semen allergies, like other allergies, may develop or decrease over time—and there is very little research on this rare condition to understand primary triggers.
What do you think about semen allergies? Did you know that someone could be allergic to semen? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and questions in the comments section on Facebook.