Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are infections that are passed from one person to another during sex. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for STIs. Having multiple partners or unprotected sex increases that risk.
If your teenager is sexually active, or considering becoming sexually active, he or she needs to learn how to prevent STIs and the importance of testing and prompt treatment if he or she is at risk for an STI.
Many STIs can have mild symptoms, or none at all, but they can increase a teen’s risk of acquiring:
The best way for your teenager to prevent STIs is to avoid sexual activity (abstinence). At Children’s Health, we explain the potential consequences of sexual activity – especially risky or unprotected sex.
If teens are already sexually active, or planning to be, we recommend:
If your teen is sexually active, he or she should get regular tests for STIs. Though most females can wait until 21 years old to start regular Pap smears, all sexually active young females should visit their physician for annual exams.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that all teenagers be offered HIV testing and that sexually active female teenagers be tested annually for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Testing for syphilis is recommended only if a sexually active female has symptoms. Certain sexually active males should be offered screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and should be screened for syphilis. And, it’s important for your teen to receive regular counseling about STI and HIV prevention.
Teens should be tested for infections immediately if they develop symptoms such as abnormal vaginal or penile discharge; genital irritation, swelling, and pain; unusual genital bumps or sores; and – in females – irregular menses.
Depending on what STIs your teen’s doctor is testing for, he or she may:
If your teen is diagnosed with an STI, treatment depends on the infection. It may include:
For those diagnosed with treatment-resistant genital warts or HIV, your child may be referred to another provider for care.