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Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Can I Get STDs Through Casual Contact Like Hugging or Touching?


By Medical Author: Rohini Radhakrishnan

By Medical Reviewer: Pallavi Uttekar

Certain skin diseases that are not particularly STIs can spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse or non-sexual contact, such as scabies, pubic lice, and molluscum contagiosum.

Most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) do not spread through casual contact such as hugging, touching or kissing, although there are exceptions. Diseases such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can spread through direct oral or genital skin-to-skin contact or by touching scabbed or infected sores. Most STIs spread either by exposure to infected body fluids during sexual intercourse or by direct contact with infected skin sores. 

Common skin diseases that can spread during sexual contact or nonsexual contact:

Some common diseases that can spread through sexual or nonsexual contact include:

  • Molluscum contagiosum: This is a skin disease that can spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual or nonsexual interaction. It is generally a painless infection. If sores break open, they can get infected by other bacteria and can become painful. The sores can be covered to prevent skin-to-skin spread to others because this can be a difficult condition to treat.

  • Scabies: Scabies is a skin condition caused by a tiny, microscopic, burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. It is very contagious and spreads quickly through close physical contact, sharing clothes, bedding, etc. Scabies cause rash with intense itching all over the body, including the skin of the genital areas. If untreated, these microscopic mites can live on your skin for months. Scabies can be treated by killing the mites and their eggs with oral medications or medications that can be applied on the skin.

  • Pubic lice: Crab lice or pubic lice (Pthirus pubis) are parasites that feed on blood. They can be found on a person's pubic hair. They may also live on other parts of the body that are covered with coarse hair, such as the perianal area, especially in men. Pubic lice can spread through skin-to-skin contact. Pubic lice present with itching, irritation and inflammation.

Common STDs that can spread through sexual skin-to-skin contact only:

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that have a high risk of transmission through skin-to-skin contact include:

  • Genital and oral herpes: Herpes is an STI that can spread through skin-to-skin contact. Sores are contagious and can spread easily from person to person through direct oral to oral, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact. Both herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) can cause typical blister-like lesions over the face or genitals. HSV-2 is more commonly associated with genital herpes.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV strains can cause genital warts and increase the risk of cervical cancer in women and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) cancer. HPV can easily spread through direct oral to genital, or oral to genital/anal contact skin-to-skin contact, especially strains causing genital warts. Vaccinations are available against HPV. Ideally, people should take vaccination before they become sexually active. In the United States, doctors recommend vaccination at the age of 11 years or earlier; however, one may get it later as well.

  • Syphilis: Sores that occur in syphilis are highly contagious. There is a risk of spread of syphilis through contact with mouth sores during deep kissing or oral sex. When the sores are covered with a condom, the risk of spread can be significantly reduced. Sometimes, sores in the mouth, genitals or other parts may go unnoticed. 

While condoms offer significant protection against these infections, they do not provide 100 percent protection. 

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