Summer Sexual Health Checklist
While it’s important to keep on top of your sexual health all year round, it is especially important to do so during the summer months.
Although there will be no festival fun this year, many people will be itching to get away and may get swept up in the spirit of things after lockdown especially if they have been parted from their loved one for months or are hooking up with a new partner they have met and dated online. However, keeping on track of your sexual health in the summer is easier than you may think.
A recent Superdrug survey (2016) found that the top concern for women was that their partner wouldn’t use a condom during sex, while men’s top concern was that their partner had an STI.
According to the Family Planning Association (2016), chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI in the UK, accounting for nearly half of all reported cases of sexually transmitted infections in 2015. Chlamydia often symptomless, and if left untreated it can lead to fertility issues for both men and women later on in life.
It has also been found that cases of syphilis have reached their highest levels since 1949. According to data from Public Health England (PHE), reported cases of the bacterial infection have skyrocketed since 2012. Syphilis is more prevalent in men engaging in same sex encounters, and 420,000 cases were reported in 2016.
To protect yourself from STIs whatever your age, you need to use a condom, and for safe oral sex use a dental dam. When using a dental dam, do not flip it over to use on the other side as this can spread infections. It’s also important to get regular STI checks at your local Family Planning Clinic or GUM Clinic, even if you are practicing safe sex, as a precaution.
Now is a great time to take an STI test, you can get tested at a sexual health clinic who are now offering more appointments or order a home testing kit, to do in the privacy of your own home.
While many people assume that because condoms are stretchy you can just buy any size, getting the right condom sizing is really important. If a condom is too small it’s going to hurt, and if it’s too big it’s going to fall off, leading to a risk in pregnancy and exposure to STIs.
“SKINS condoms :sexual-health/condoms come in a range of sizes and styles to accommodate for everyone, so getting the right fit is easier than you may think.
If you are going on holiday, remember to take your contraception with you. However, if you do accidentally forget to pack your pill or condoms, there is a new service available called Gynopedia, an online resource. Recently set up by Lana Fried, it provides travellers with access to sexual and reproductive health advice while abroad, and it even has a rating system of the best clinics to visit.
Having a post-sex pee and keeping hydrated are good ways to prevent that dreaded UTI/cystitis, but unfortunately it is a much more common occurrence in the summer months.
Dehydration is more prevalent in the summer as some people are unable to up their water intake to compensate for the amount of water they lose via sweat, so ensure that you are drinking more water. An easy way to keep on top of this is keeping a water bottle in your bag as a reminder to drink more.
Nothing beats a nice cold cider or beer when barbecue season hits, however it is important that you regularly have a glass of water in between your alcoholic beverages to avoid becoming dehydrated.
If you’re going somewhere where there’s a pool, make sure you dry yourself properly or change out of your damp swimsuit after a few laps. This is because the increase in temperature is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow in the genital area. A warm, damp environment will encourage the growth of E-coli, which is responsible for 80% of UTI cases.
The summer heat can also make us a little more sweaty in the genital area, which again can create the perfect environment for E-coli to flourish. To combat this, switch to cotton underwear, go commando or regularly change your knickers.
Going commando is also beneficial for men too. Many men, especially those who exercise frequently, can develop intertrigo, a form of contact dermatitis. Fungal infections flourish in warm, damp conditions, so sweaty boxers are the perfect environment for fungi to thrive. Going commando, therefore, is a quick fix solution to prevent this from developing.
The hot weather can sometimes have us feeling a little frisky, however sometime fantasies can actually compromise your sexual health.
The idea of having sex on the beach can be a real turn on for a lot of people, but sometimes sex doesn’t always go to plan! Having sex on a towel that is too small, or having sex in certain positions, may result in small amount of sand entering your vagina.
While there is nothing medically unsafe about sand in your vagina, it can be a bit of a discomfort and you may be tempted to douche. However, this could do more harm than good as you will upset the vaginal flora which could lead to infections such as thrush.
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and so any sand inside your vagina will come out naturally along with your vaginal discharge, which also helps to flush away old cells. It might also be a good idea to avoid having sex until the sand is gone, as the friction could cause tiny tears in the vaginal walls leading to issues later on.
Another place that people often fantasise about having sex in is in a hot tub, however if it is poorly maintained it may contain bacteria, which can also cause thrush.
When travelling or going to a festival, don’t leave your lubricants behind! Do not be tempted to use a producst not designed for sex play.
When travelling by plane, be sure to check the hand luggage restrictions regarding liquids. YES organic lubricant is available in handy travel-sized tubes, and the Intro Pack is especially handy for travelling. Make sure you pack your lubricants in a clear plastic bag as per the hand luggage regulations. The YES products come in handy 50ml//100ml tubes and single use applicators
If you are on holiday and want to get frisky in the sea or a swimming pool, you may not realise that the water can actually wash away your natural vaginal lubrication, which can make penetration difficult and uncomfortable.
To combat this, you could apply some ID Velvet silicone lubricant prior to entering the water, as this is less likely to wash away than any other type of lubricant as it sits on the skin’s surface. Alternatively, you could enjoy a decent amount of foreplay underwater and then relocate to your hotel room for some indulgent holiday fun. It comes in handy 50ml/30ml bottles so ideal for travelling.
Taking your favourite sex toys along on your holiday can be a tempting idea, but different countries have different laws regarding sex toys. For instance, sex toys are prohibited in India, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Illegal items may be confiscated upon arrival, so to avoid any disappointment make sure you get clued up before you go.
If you’re taking a sex toy in your carry-on luggage, make sure the batteries are removed or the travel lock is on, and you may wish to store it in a clear, labelled bag. This way, if your bag does go through a security check, then there will be no confusion as to what your little gadget really is. You may also want to consider taking a smaller product with you to avoid any embarrassment: a bullet vibrator is a lot less conspicuous than a big vibrator!
If you’re planning on taking any cleaning products with you, make sure that the spray or cleaning fluid adheres to the liquid regulations and is placed in a clear bag.
There is a lot of pressure in the media to be “Beach Body Ready” and to attain the perfect summer figure, but a little mindfulness can go a long way. If you are suffering with body image issues, read up on the topic and research the different ways in which you can overcome these feelings of anxiety.
Treating your body with respect can be great for both your physical and mental health. Take up some gentle exercise such as yoga or even going for a daily walk, make healthy food choices and stay hydrated. As long as you feel good in your own skin and feel healthy, then it doesn’t really matter what other people think about your appearance.
From bikini hang-ups to lost luggage or travelling with small children, holidays can be a little stressful for all manner of reasons. Beating the holiday stress and allowing yourself to unwind will do wonders for your wellbeing too.