Yeast infections really are the worst — especially if the possibility exists that you can pass the itchy, irritating joy to someone else (like hot potato, but of the nether regions).
The annoying infections are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida.
Unchecked candida can cause infections pretty much anywhere on the skin or in the mouth — but in people with vaginas, it typically takes the form of a vaginal yeast infection. Often, they develop from frequent antibiotic use. Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw (or withdraw 😉).
Yeast infections are characterized by intense itching and redness; vaginal ones are usually elevated bye a painful burning sensation and thick white discharge.
While they’re not generally considered contagious (like, you won’t give someone your yeast infection from coughing or holding hands), they can potentially be passed on in certain situations.
What’s more, some activities might be riskier than others. Here are some of the most likely ways a yeast infection can be spread, plus what might not be as big of a deal.
In a word, anyone. Candida is the most common cause of vaginal yeast infections, sure. But both men and women can experience candida overgrowth in their mouths or on other areas of their skin — including on a person’s penis.
Even babies can get yeast infections, both in their mouths or in the form of diaper rashes.
Some people are more prone to yeast infections than others, though. You might be more likely to get one if you:
- take antibiotics frequently
- have diabetes
- have obesity
- take steroids
- are on chemotherapy
- have a condition that causes a weakened immune system, like HIV
- if you aren’t circumcised
OK, so what activities are the most likely to spread yeast infections — and are there any that seem risky, but actually aren’t that big of a deal? Here’s what you need to know.
Yeast infections aren’t transmissible from vaginal or anal sex. But sex very well might make your irritated tissue more uncomfortable and potentially slow your healing time. So for that reason alone, it’s probably worth steering clear until you’re recovered.
Another thing to consider: There are some vaginal infections that cause symptoms similar to yeast infections — like trichomoniasis — that are spreadable through sex.
So, if you aren’t 100 percent sure about the type of infection you’re dealing with, you should abstain until you can get a definitive diagnosis.
It’s fine to give oral if you have a vaginal yeast infection. But it’s possible for your partner to contract the infection if they’re giving oral to you. Your safest bet is to avoid receiving oral until your yeast infection clears up, but your partner can minimize their risk by using a dental dam.
What if you have an oral yeast infection — can locking lips make your partner sick?
Probably not, unless the person you’re kissing is at high risk to begin with. Oral thrush (aka a candida infection in the mouth) is what’s called an opportunistic infection, meaning it only typically takes hold when the conditions are right.
If you make out with someone when you have oral thrush, you’ll definitely pass some of your candida fungi onto your partner. But we all have some candida in our mouths and on our skin all the time, and it only morphs into an infection if the fungi grows out of control.
So if the person you’re kissing is at higher risk for yeast infections — they have diabetes, for instance, or have a weakened immune system — then it’s possible that the extra candida they get from your mouth could tip the scales and kick-start an infection.
If they’re not at higher risk for yeast infections? They’ll probably be OK, but you should always let them know before you get to smooching. And if you want to play it safe, avoiding kissing until you’re recovered is likely the smarter move.
If you have a vaginal yeast infection, it’s highly unlikely for the infection to be transmitted to your bath partner. But very hot baths, hot tubs, and scented bubble baths can up the risk for yeast infections or make existing ones worse.
If you want to hop in the tub either with your partner or solo, keep the water warm instead of hot and stick with a plain, mild soap.
Surprise — yeast infections can develop on your nipples or breasts, and breastfeeding can make the whole scenario more likely.
Since the candida fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, it’s conceivable that leaky boobs could dampen the fabric of your bra or nursing pad, spur the overgrowth of yeast, and trigger an infection.
You might be more prone to get it if you also have a vaginal yeast infection or are on antibiotics.
It’s possible for thrush on your nipples or breasts to get transmitted to your baby while breastfeeding, leading to oral thrush in your little one. And the opposite scenario can happen too — where your baby transmits her oral thrush to your nipples or breasts during nursing.
How do you get a yeast infection under control and eventually make it go away altogether? That depends on where it is on your body.
Vaginal yeast infections
- Mild infections may be treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal antifungal meds like miconazole or terconazole. You might need a prescription antifungal for a more serious infection.
- In some cases, your doc might prescribe a one-time oral med like fluconazole.
Oral yeast infections
- Oral treatments like antifungal lozenges or rinses are the first line of defense. If those don’t work, your doc might prescribe an antifungal tablet or pill.
- Breastfeeding moms and babies both need treatment to keep the infection from getting passed back and forth. Your doc will likely recommend a prescription antifungal cream for your baby’s mouth and one for your breasts.
Yeast infections on other areas of the skin
- Penile yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal creams.
- Yeast infections in other areas might be treated with antifungal powders or oral anti-yeast medications. Your doctor will determine what’s right for you.
You can’t always prevent yeast infections from forming, but there’s plenty you can do to keep your risk as low as possible.
For vaginal yeast infections, you can minimize your chances by wearing breathable cotton underwear, not douching, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, and changing out of wet or sweaty clothes ASAP.
If you’re at higher risk for oral thrush, keep up a good brushing and flossing routine and limit your sugar intake — sweet stuff can encourage the growth of candida. If you have diabetes, be vigilant about keeping your blood sugar in check and seeing your dentist regularly.