By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Some people, both men and women are known to be allergic to the proteins present in semen. This is termed human seminal plasma hypersensitivity.
Allergy to a certain enzyme, protein or chemical means the person’s immune system overreacts each time it encounters that protein or chemical.
The symptoms of an allergy may be localized where the chemical or protein has come in contact with the body or may be more widespread or systemic. Systemic allergy means there may be a generalized whole body reaction on exposure to the chemical.
Localized semen allergy
In individuals with localized allergy to semen, there is vaginal itching in the allergic woman or itching in the penis is the man is allergic to his own semen. The vagina or penis (as the case may be) is itchy, red, swollen and develops blisters within 30 minutes of coming in contact with the semen after ejaculation.
Generalized semen allergy
Allergy may also be more generalized. This leads to itching all over the body as well as hives.
Some patients may develop flu like illness after an orgasm called post-orgasmic illness syndrome or POIS. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, fatigue and burning eyes, which can last for up to a week.
Severe allergies have been reported in some isolated reports. This includes life threatening anaphylaxis reactions. This type of severe hypersensitivity is commonly seen with allergens like peanut butter or penicillin allergies. The affected person develops shortness of breath, swelling of the voice box or larynx and throat choking the airways along with severe fall in blood pressure. Immediate emergency management is required to save the patient.
Testing for semen allergy
The most common testing method is to use a condom during intercourse. If symptoms are not seen with condom use semen allergy is suspected in the woman. For men with semen allergy, traditional allergy tests including skin prick allergy tests are recommended.
Management of semen allergy
Mild cases do not require treatment and usually go away on repeated exposure. In severe cases help of the physician needs to be sought. This is more so if the couple is trying to conceive.
Semen allergy is a cause of infertility in a couple and may also lead to miscarriages and early loss of pregnancies. In these cases artificial reproductive technologies that include sperm washing and artificial insemination may be used.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2013