We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the best way to prevent illness is by minimizing exposure or immunizing prior to a potential exposure. Not all illnesses have vaccines that prevent them, and sometimes exposure can’t be minimized. For some conditions there is a second front of treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP. Treatments falling into this category may be given after exposure has occurred but before illness has resulted. The hope is to prevent the illness, post-exposure, with treatment.

There are different types of post-exposure prophylaxis, and one kind may be familiar to many people. Those who have ever received an open wound and had a tetanus shot, as part of treatment, have experienced PEP. Another example of this was particularly relevant in 2009, when people were given H1N1 vaccinations after being directly in contact with someone who was ill with the disease, significantly reducing number of cases. Sometimes people who haven’t received other kinds of flu shots get one when they are aware they’ve come into contact with someone with the flu.

Probably one of the most significant post-exposure prophylaxis types was developed in response to the potential for direct contact with the fluids of someone with HIV. This might be as a result of unprotected sex or through needle sticks in the medical setting. There now is post-exposure prophylaxis protocol in place including the use of antiviral drugs for several months. This may very often prevent contraction of HIV, though it does not always work.

Additional diseases that might suggest using post-exposure prophylaxis include Hepatitis B. This has become less common as Hepatitis B vaccines are now part of the regular vaccine schedule for children. PEP would still be recommended for people with autoimmune conditions or who did not receive the shots as children.

PEP has also been extremely useful in the treatment of exposure to rabies. Almost all people who know or suspect they have received exposure have a total of five rabies shots that virtually always prevent the disease, if given within a certain time window. These shots have fortunately improved. People may recall nightmare stories of shots that were given in the stomach, and that hurt very badly. Today’s shots are given into the muscles in the shoulder, and though still uncomfortable, they prevent death from a devastating disease.

Another form of PEP, which may exact greater controversy, does not prevent disease. Instead it may prevent conception. The morning after pill is after the fact birth control, that when taken shortly after sexual intercourse, can reduce pregnancy changes. It is not an abortifacient, and is not likely to result in death of an egg that is already implanted. An additional method that was and still is practiced to some degree is performing a D&C, usually right after a woman has been raped.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.