Whether you’re off to watch the football at the World Cup or going on your jollies, here’s some op tips on how to make far-flung frolics safer and what to do if you find yourself in a bit of a post-passion pickle in paradise…
Hip hip hooray, you’re off , You’ve sorted your currency, your camera and your cossie… but have you remembered condoms? Since travelling means meeting exciting new people, relaxing and feeling free from the usual social restraints, it’s common for folk to shed their inhibitions along with their clothes. But since the NHS warns that large numbers of STIs are being passed on via sexual adventures during international travel, it’s vital to take care of your health if you have a holiday fling.
So whether you’re heading to Russia, Rome or Romford , get clued up before your sexpedition…
Using condoms in other countries
Condoms are the only form of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections, so you should always use them with holiday hook-ups. Reliable condoms can be tricky to find in some places. The British Kitemark or European CE mark stamped on the packet tells you the product’s been tested to high specifications. However, poor-quality counterfeit condoms posing as brand-name items are common in certain parts of the world, and sizing differs among countries, too, so to guarantee good standards and fit, be safe and bring your own from home.
Whatever type you choose, store them carefully. High temperatures can degrade condoms and make them more likely to break, so leaving them in your beach bag is a no-no. SPF lotion, after sun and other oily cosmetics can damage latex condoms as well, so wash residue off your hands before using to stop your condoms ripping.
If you’re in a couple, have both been STI screened and are on the contraceptive pill, it’s still worth taking condoms on your travels as back-up. Upset stomachs caused by seasickness and different food and water can make your medication less effective. It’s also easy to get confused about when to take tablets if you’re travelling through time zones or forget pills when you’re partying. Take the information leaflet from your pill pack with you, so you’ve got all the details to hand if there’s a hiccup.
While we’re talking tablets, did you know that antihistamines and alcohol can cause vaginal dryness? Taking some lube in your suitcase may be a good idea and help to reduce friction, which can make condoms tear. Remember that if you’re only taking hand luggage, liquids are limited to 100ml bottles.
Accidents happen: Emergency contraception & STIs
Even the best-laid plans can go astray. If a condom breaks or you end up having unprotected intercourse and there’s a risk of unplanned pregnancy, you have several options. Although emergency contraceptive tablets are nicknamed the morning-after pill, you can take them later than that: Levonelle (or own-brand equivalents) can be administered within 72 hours (three days) of sex, while ellaOne gives you 120 hours (five days) to take action. However, both are more effective the earlier they are taken.
Obtaining emergency contraceptive pills abroad isn’t always easy. While you can buy them over the counter from pharmacies in many locations, in others a prescription is required, and in some places they are illegal or in short supply. Consider taking an emergency pill with you for peace of mind. An IUD (the coil) can be inserted by a professional up to five days after unprotected sex, and is even more effective than tablets, so this may be a possibility if you’re travelling home soon.
You’ll also need to consider STIs if you’ve had unprotected sex during your hols. You’re not to know if someone is carrying an infection, and you may not experience any symptoms yourself: for example, chlamydia is one of the world’s most common STIs in under-25s and can cause infertility if left untreated for a long time, yet over 70% of women and 50% of men with the infection show no signs that they have it. The only way to be sure you’re clear is to get tested.
Ideally, you should get screened about a fortnight after unprotected sex, and then again in around three months, since different STIs have different incubation times, so some appear on tests later than others. To find your nearest bSHaW sexual health clinic click here
‘If you’ve had unprotected sex while abroad, you should tell your doctor which country you’ve been visiting, some venereal diseases are far more common in foreign countries than in the UK.
If there’s a chance you’ve been exposed to HIV, a month-long course of PEP medication can prevent the infection from taking hold if started within 72 hours of exposure. Check out our HIV page to discover more.
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