When it comes to avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), some people think oral sex is safer than intercourse. But several STIs—such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—can spread through oral sex.
In this article, I’ll focus on chlamydia and oral sex. Like chlamydia in the genital area, chlamydia in the throat may not cause any symptoms, so it’s important to practice safe oral sex, talk to your sexual partners about their health, and get tested for STIs.
In many cases, chlamydia is curable with antibiotics, however an untreated chlamydia infection can result in serious health problems, including ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
So if you think you may have chlamydia, it’s important to see a healthcare provider.
Read on to learn how you can get chlamydia from oral sex, what the symptoms are, how to get diagnosed and treated for it, and when to see your doctor.
Can You Get Chlamydia From Oral Sex?
Chlamydia trachomatis—the bacteria that causes a chlamydia infection—spreads through contact with another person’s mucus membranes (most often the vagina, penis, or rectum).
Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex can transmit chlamydia.
Chlamydia from oral sex is called a pharyngeal chlamydia infection. In this instance, most commonly, chlamydia bacteria are transmitted from the penis to the mouth and throat.
But chlamydia can also spread through oral contact with another person’s anus or vagina.
Someone with chlamydia in the throat could also transmit the infection to another person’s genitals by giving oral sex, but chlamydia doesn’t spread through kissing.
People also don’t get chlamydia from contact with toilet seats, sharing clothes or towels, or hugging.
Symptoms of Chlamydia
In some people, a chlamydia throat infection doesn’t cause any symptoms. In others, it may cause symptoms similar to a strep throat infection.
Some of the most common symptoms of oral chlamydia include:
- Sore throat
- Pain the mouth
- Redness in the mouth or throat
- Mouth sores
- Sores around the lips
- Dental problems
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Bumps on the tongue
- White spots in the back of the throat or tonsils
On the other hand, symptoms of a genital chlamydia infection include:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sexual activity
- Pain or swelling of the testicles
- Itching or burning
- Rectal pain
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, including bloody discharge
Keep in mind that chlamydia symptoms may not surface right away. Instead, they usually appear 1-3 weeks after initial sexual contact with an infected individual.
Even if a person with chlamydia doesn’t have symptoms, they can still spread the infection to others.
Whether you have symptoms of a chlamydia infection in your throat or genitals, it is important to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Many tests can screen for chlamydia, but testing for throat chlamydia isn’t usually part of standard STI screening.
Tell your medical provider if you’re experiencing symptoms in your throat or are worried about an infection after giving oral sex.
If your medical provider suspects chlamydia in the throat, they’ll ask about your symptoms and sexual contact.
They may then swab your throat and send the sample to a lab to test for chlamydia.
It’s also possible that you’ll have a general STD test, which may involve a urine sample, blood test, or cheek swab. In any case, if you test positive for any STI, make sure to tell your sexual partners so they can take necessary precautions.
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia of the throat, wait to have oral sex or sexual intercourse until you finish your prescribed dose and your symptoms have completely resolved.
Even if your symptoms improve or go away, make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics. Stopping early could cause the infection to come back.
While antibiotic treatment may cure a current infection, it is possible to get chlamydia again. The recurrence rate of chlamydia is particularly high, so it’s important to take action to prevent future infections.
Preventing throat chlamydia
Because throat chlamydia spreads through contact during oral sex, practice safe sex by using a condom or dental dam.
Other ways to prevent the spread of chlamydia include:
- Avoiding sexual contact if you have sores in your mouth
- Using latex or plastic condoms
- Routinely getting checked for STIs
- Encouraging your partner to have regular STI checks
If you have any symptoms of chlamydia or any other STI, it’s best to avoid sexual contact until you receive and finish any treatment.
Along with potentially uncomfortable symptoms, chlamydia carries a risk of other medical complications:
- Infertility in women
- Preterm delivery in pregnant women
- Ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that implants outside of the uterus)
- Infections in newborn babies from an infected parent
- Inflammation in the upper genital tract
- Prostate gland infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes that causes pelvic pain and fever)
- Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter’s syndrome, a type of inflammatory arthritis
If you have chlamydia and think you may be experiencing any of these complications, seek emergency medical care right away. Some chlamydia-related medical issues can be irreversible without proper treatment.
When to See a Doctor
If left untreated, throat chlamydia can result in significant health complications.
If you have strep throat-like symptoms after giving oral sex, seek medical care right away, epsecially if you’re pregnant.
A healthcare provider can test you for chlamydia and other STIs and also rule out other infections.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Chlamydia: CDC Fact Sheet. (2021). https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia-detailed.htm
Chlamydia. (2021). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537286/
Prevalence of Genital Chlamydia Trachomatis Infection in the General Population: A Meta-Analysis. (2020). https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-020-05307-w