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How do I Avoid Syphilis Infection?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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Syphilis is an infection that is caused by bacteria, transmitted through sexual contact with an infected individual, and potentially deadly if left untreated. One of the best ways to avoid syphilis infection is to abstain from sex, but you may also lower your chances of contracting syphilis by having sex with just one uninfected person or by using a condom and dental dam for every sex act. Additionally, you may avoid kissing and other forms of close contact with an individual who has a syphilis sore. Though less likely, it is also possible to contract syphilis through a blood transfusion that contains infected blood. As such, avoiding transfusions is another way to avoid syphilis infection, though it may not be a practical one.

Having multiple sex partners is a risk factor for syphilis infection, so restricting yourself to just one sex partner may help you to avoid infection. By itself, however, this may not be enough. Instead, you may do well to communicate with your partner to ensure that you both agree to monogamy. Then, both of you may agree to be tested for syphilis and exchange test results. If you trust your partner and his test result is negative, you stand a good chance of avoiding syphilis infection.

Using a condom for intercourse and dental dam for oral sex may help you to avoid syphilis infection, but may not be 100-percent effective. This is because it is possible to contract syphilis through close contact as well. If you kiss your partner, for example, and your mouth comes into contact with a syphilis sore, it is possible for you to contract syphilis this way. It may also be possible to contract syphilis from skin to skin contact, such as if you accidentally rub your skin against an infected person's syphilis sore. For instance, if the bacteria that cause syphilis get into your body through a cut or sore, you may contract syphilis in this manner as well.

Blood transfusions are usually life saving, safe, and free of contamination by bacteria and viruses that cause disease. It is, however, possible to contract syphilis if you receive a transfusion of blood that is contaminated with the infection. Syphilis can be treated effectively using antibiotics, especially in its early stages. Instead of choosing to avoid transfusions, you may choose to have one if necessary and then seek swift treatment if you do contract the infection.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By Rotergirl — On Nov 30, 2014

@Pippinwhite -- I've found over the years that nothing ticks people off more than actually telling them the truth -- especially when that truth involves saying they did something wrong or stupid.

After all the press that AIDS has gotten, and after all the PSAs about safer sex precautions, using condoms, etc., you'd think people would be more careful.

It sounds judgmental, I guess, but of the three people I've known who have had syphilis, every single one of them had multiple sex partners. They had sex with nearly every person they dated more than once or twice. They were big on hooking up. Morality or whatever aside, it's just not smart to have sex with every person you date. And condoms are cheap and available everywhere. They're free from the health department.

Bottom line: you avoid syphilis by being choosy about your sex partners and by using condoms every time.

By Pippinwhite — On Nov 29, 2014

The tragic part is some people actually think you can't get syphilis anymore, like polio or smallpox have been pretty much eradicated in developed countries.

I say this because a friend found out she had syphilis and she was just shocked. She actually told me, "I didn't think people got that anymore!" Her words. I wanted to tell her that anyone that ignorant shouldn't be having sex, but I refrained. I did tell her that she should be using a condom every time she has sex, but that she really needed to screen her partners and actually ask them if they'd been treated for an STD lately. She said it would "ruin the mood." I told her that tertiary syphilis was a heck of a lot worse than "ruining the mood." It made her mad, but I didn't really care.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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