Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus, which is naturally found in your body. These infections can cause inflammation, discharge, and other symptoms. Both men and women can get genital yeast infections, though they are more common in women.
Yeast infections aren’t considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), because many people (including babies and children) who get them have never had sex. But there are ways that yeast infections can be transmitted from one person to another. Keep reading to find out which behaviors put you at the most risk of spreading a yeast infection.
If you’re wondering if you can transmit your yeast infection to a partner through sex, the short answer is: Yes, you can. While it isn’t common, it’s not rare, either. About 15 percent of men will experience symptoms of a penile yeast infection after sexual intercourse with an infected female partner.
If both partners are female, it’s possible to pass a yeast infection from one partner to another, but more research is needed into how likely this is to occur.
A man with a penile yeast infection can also transmit his infection to a female partner through sexual contact.
While you weigh the risk of transmitting a yeast infection to a partner, you may also want to consider that having sex with a yeast infection can be very uncomfortable. Sex with penetration from a penis or a sex toy can:
- irritate inflammation
- disrupt any creams or medications you’re using to treat your infection
- result in a longer infection time
It’s unlikely that a yeast infection can be transmitted directly through bath water, but there are some caveats that you should keep in mind.
As a rule, showers are better than baths when you’re in the process of treating a yeast infection. If you do take a sitz bath with Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar, boric acid, or any other home remedy while you’re treating your yeast infection, don’t soak for more than 10 minutes at a time. Also make sure to pat the area of the infection completely dry once you’re out of the water.
Avoid sexual intimacy in a bath or hot tub when either partner has a yeast infection. The conditions of sex in a water environment might make it easier for a yeast infection to spread through sex.
If two young children are bathing together and one has a yeast infection, be careful not to use the same cloth or sponge to wash them both. If possible, avoid bathing your child at all when they have a yeast infection, opting for quick showers and sponge baths instead.
Keep in mind that scented soaps or bubble bath may irritate or prolong yeast infections.
You can transmit Candida fungus to a partner through kissing. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll develop thrush as a result.
Thrush happens when risk factors, like taking antibiotics or having a suppressed immune system, throw off your body’s natural balance of Candida albicans flora. So while kissing a person with thrush might contribute to having more Candida to deal with, it won’t necessarily infect you. Remember that our bodies naturally have Candida.
Infants can get thrush from their mothers while breastfeeding. Since Candida is present on your nipples and breasts, breastfeeding causes babies to have excess yeast in their mouths, which commonly results in thrush. Women can also get yeast infections from breastfeeding.
Keep these tips in mind to prevent getting further yeast infections:
- wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear
- change out of your swimsuit immediately after spending time in the pool
- cut down on the amount of carbohydrates and processed food in your diet
- only use antibiotics when necessary (and follow up with a round of probiotics if you do have to take them)
- avoid using menstrual products that are scented
- use fragrance-free soaps
- keep your vaginal area clean with warm water only, and never use a douche
- urinate immediately following sex
If you’re getting more than four yeast infections a year, you need to speak with your doctor. It may be that you have another underlying cause that needs to be treated. Or you may not actually have a yeast infection after all, in which case you’ll need a different course of treatment. Recurrent yeast infections should be diagnosed and treated by a gynecologist.