While sex may trigger the release of endorphins and provide some relief from symptoms, it won’t cure or shorten your illness. It also can spread germs to your partner.
It’s important to discuss your boundaries with your partner before engaging in sexual activity while sick. This includes agreeing on phone or video sex so that you can avoid contact with germs.
1. It can relieve stress
Stress is a common problem that can cause many symptoms in the body, including sweating, trembling and heart palpitations. People who have a strong intimate partnership and other forms of social support can better manage stress and experience less of the negative side effects of it.
Sex has been shown to reduce stress in both partners and can promote feelings of closeness and intimacy. It can also help you feel more relaxed and give you a good night’s sleep. It is important to get enough rest because if you are stressed, it can affect your hormone levels and lead to low libido.
If you are ill, it is best to avoid intimate activities until you are feeling better. This is because respiratory illnesses are spread through droplets, saliva and coughing. Having sex when you are sick could spread your infection to your partner or even infect others around you.
Studies have found that frequent sexual activity can increase immune system function and help fight off illness, including flu and the common cold. However, if you already have a fever or are very sick with the flu or a severe cold, sex isn’t likely to make you feel any better and can actually cause more harm than good. If you can’t avoid it, try to make sure that both of you are able to relax and enjoy the intimacy of the moment.
2. It can make you feel better
Aside from being a good workout for the body (it burns around 150 calories an hour), sex also feels amazing. It’s a natural mood booster and releases hormones that can lift your spirits when you feel down.
The oxytocin and endorphins that are released during sexual activity can make you feel happy and help relieve pain. Studies have found that sex can reduce depression and anxiety, and even boost your self-esteem.
If you’re sick with the common cold or flu, it’s best to avoid intimate positions and kissing because you might be transferring germs. A study published in Microbiome found that French kissing transfers 80 million bacteria every 10 seconds.
However, if you’re feeling better and want to enjoy some intimacy with your partner, it’s fine to have sex. Just remember to wear a face mask to keep from spreading any germs.
In fact, if you regularly have sex, it may help prevent sickness in the first place. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who engage in regular sex have higher levels of infection-fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those who don’t have sex.
3. It can give you a reason to stay home
If you’re sick, the best thing to do is stay home and rest. You can still have sex, but you should wait until your symptoms are gone and you’re no longer contagious. Respiratory illnesses like the common cold, flu or COVID-19 spread through droplets and saliva. Kissing, sneezing and coughing also transfer germs from one person to another. If you’re going to have sex while sick, try not to touch each other and use condoms if necessary.
During sex, your sympathetic nervous system—the one that activates your fight or flight response—is triggered and your blood vessels constrict. This can help relieve congestion in your nose, Dr. Benninger explains. After orgasm, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and relaxes your blood vessels. This helps your breathing return to normal.
Sexual activity also boosts your immune system by producing antibodies that fight infections. A study found that college students who have sex regularly—even just once or twice per week—have higher levels of a specific antibody that defends your body against viruses and bacteria. In addition, the oxytocin and endorphins released after orgasm can make you feel better overall. This can include relieving stress, boosting your mood and helping you sleep. You may also find that sex can alleviate symptoms of depression, speed up wound healing and reduce inflammation.1 2
4. It can help you feel more intimate
Research has shown that sexual intimacy can increase oxytocin levels, which promote feelings of trust, empathy and love. It can also help boost libido.
However, if you have a cold, it’s best to avoid any sexual activity that could spread germs from your infected body to your partner. Respiratory illnesses like the common cold, flu or COVID-19 can be transmitted through droplets and saliva. Kissing, breathing close to each other’s face and coughing or sneezing can easily transfer these germs to the healthy person.
Besides, the physical contact during sex may cause discomfort for women who have conditions such as endometriosis or vulvodynia, and it can also lead to urinary tract infections, especially if you are taking antibiotics. And, if you are a man, you should avoid any sexual activities that can cause abdominal pain, pelvic pain or vulva inflammation.
While the benefits of sex are many, it can’t cure or prevent illness and shouldn’t be considered a replacement for medical treatment. If you and your partner are both sick, it’s best to postpone sex until you both feel better. Instead, you can enjoy other sexual activities that don’t involve any contact with each other, such as masturbation. This will also allow you to avoid contaminating your intimate toys. A study found that men who engage in masturbation at least once a week have lower heart rates than those who don’t.