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How true is the claim that one can be allergic to semen?

Photo credit: Mentalfloss.com 5 mins read

Claim: A post made by Dr. Damian Avar (@therealsabidoctor) claimed that persons experiencing burning sensation, fever after sex may be allergic to semen.

The claim is partially true. Although rare, it is possible to be allergic to semen, specifically to the proteins found in sperm.

Full Text

Having an allergy can be a nuisance and affect one’s everyday activities, but most allergic reactions are mild and can be largely kept under control. Severe reactions can occasionally occur, but these are uncommon.

Recently, a post made by QEDaily claimed that persons experiencing burning sensations, fever after sex may be allergic to semen.

The post attributed the claim to a medical doctor and sex consultant, Dr. Damian Avar, also known as “Sabi Doctor” who said men who develop a fever or feel a bit sick after releasing their semen could also be experiencing semen allergy.

  Screenshot of the Instagram post

The Instagram post as of November 8, 2021, has 34, 957 views.

Verification

An allergy  is an immune system response to a foreign substance that’s not typically harmful to a person’s body. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Many allergens are everyday substances that are harmless to most people. Moreover, anything can be an allergen if the immune system has a specific type of adverse reaction to it. 

Allergy comes with different symptoms that are not new to the body system. Some of the allergic reactions come with inflammation and irritation. And the signs and symptoms depend on the type of allergen that unleashes the attack. It might occur in the gut, skin, sinuses, airways, eyes, and nasal passages. 

The immune system is part of the body and is composed of cells and their chemicals that work together to keep the body free of injurious agents such as infections. The immune response is not because of the noxious nature of the allergen but because of a misdirected recognition of the substance as harmful.

Any substance which is recognized by the immune system is an antigen. In the case of people with allergies, the allergens are picked up by certain cells, called antigen-presenting cells that process them and allow them to be recognized by and to alert the innate immune system to their presence.

A photo showing types of allergies                  PhotoCredit: Medindia

In addition to other symptoms, dust and pollen allergy could come with blocked nose, itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, swollen and watery eyes, cough and others.

Skin reactions include flaking, itching, peeling of skin and rashes, among others, while food allergy is characterised by vomiting, swollen tongue, tingling in the mouth, swelling of the lips, face, and throat, stomach cramps, shortness of breath and rectal bleeding, among others.

There is also insect sting, which could also come with wheezing, swelling at the site of the sting, drop in blood pressure, itchy skin, shortness of breath, restlessness, hives, a red and very itchy rash that spreads across the body, dizziness, cough, chest tightness, anxiety and possible anaphylaxis, which usually is the last stage of conditions of allergy.

Semen Allergies

A semen allergy, otherwise known as human seminal plasma hypersensitivity (HSP), is an allergic reaction to the proteins found in most men’s sperm.

It is said to be a rare allergic reaction to proteins found in a man’s semen and it mostly affects women. 

Studies show that it is possible to be allergic to your own semen. And when this happens, it is known as a post-orgasmic illness syndrome.

A reproductive health expert, Dr. Ademola Ayodele, said it is possible to be allergic to semen as parts of the body in contact with the semen will begin to react unfavourably.

“It is possible to be allergic to semen, but where that burning sensation is might be different from what a layman thinks, the burning sensation will be in the private part; that is where the semen has touched. However, the fact that a woman reacts to semen does not mean she is allergic to all semen, there could just be antibodies raised in a particular individual’s semen, and that is why sometimes a woman finds it difficult to get pregnant for a particular person but when she exchanges partner, it is discovered that she is able to get pregnant,” he said.

He added that although possible, cases of a woman being allergic to semen are very rare.

“Such cases are very rare and the word allergy is very serious because it simply means that if not treated, it would keep disturbing the woman and she may die from it.”

The Chief Medical Director of the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital UNIMEDTH, Dr. Adesina Akintan, said the claim that experiencing a burning sensation or fever after sex could be a sign of being allergic to semen is false.

“Being allergic to semen after sex is not true, there is nothing like that; it is not true. If the woman develops some symptoms after sex, it might be due to other factors and not because she is allergic to semen,’ he added.

A gynecologist, Dr. Joel Sola Akande, said there is a distant possibility that the claim is true.

He added, ‘If the victim was infected before sex, then it has nothing to do with semen, but semen generally speaking does not cause allergy except in rare cases and under certain circumstances. It is a distant possibility for people to be allergic to semen.’

According to a study by the International society for sexual medicine (ISSM), sperm allergy is a rare allergic reaction whose symptoms include, redness, swelling, pain, itching, and a burning sensation in the vaginal areas. The symptoms usually start about 10-30 minutes after contact with semen.

Although the symptoms may not be confined to the vaginal area, they can occur in any area that has contact with semen, including the skin and mouth.

The study further added that for some women, the symptoms are localized; meaning they stay in one major area, and for others, the symptoms can affect their whole body. They may have hives, swelling, trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis- a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Another report reveals that systematic reactions are experienced as dyspnea, dysphagia,  rhinoconjunctivitis complaints, generalized urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal symptoms, exacerbation of existing atopic eczema, or anaphylactic shock.

The report added that it has been reported that semen allergy may present ‘vulvar vestibulitis syndrome’ or ‘burning semen syndrome.’ These symptoms may occur during the first sexual intercourse. And some results are indicative of allergens originating from the prostate, prostate-specific antigen being clinically relevant.

Conclusion

Although rare, it is possible to be allergic to semen, specifically to the proteins found in sperm. And although the symptoms may not be confined to the vaginal area, they can occur in any area that has contact with semen, including the skin and mouth.

The researcher produced this fact check article per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Crest FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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