The Summer Holiday Safe Sex Guide: Part 3 – The STI Souvenirs

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21 Aug 2015

The Summer Holiday Safe Sex Guide: Part 3 – The STI Souvenirs

Cheap bottles of wine and local ornaments are much better holiday souvenirs that swollen testicles and disgusting vaginal discharge. Here, we take a look at what you could be bringing back with you if you’re not careful – detailing the causes, symptoms and complications.


Chlamydia is the UK’s most common STI amongst young people with more than 200,000 people testing positive for it every year. Chlamydia can be spread through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex as well as simple genital contact or sharing sex toys with a partner.

As well as infecting the penis or vagina, chlamydia can infect people’s eyes in the form of conjunctivitis if infected semen or vaginal discharge enters the eye.

Although roughly half of men and up to 80% of women do not experience any symptoms when contracting chlamydia, there are a number of painful and potentially devastating complications which can occur.

Initial symptoms for women can include:

- Pain when urinating

- Unusual vaginal discharge

- Abdomen pain and discomfort

- Bleeding and pain during sex

- Heavy periods

Initial symptoms for men can include:

- Pain when urinating

- Disgusting discharge from the tip of the penis

- Testicle pain

If left undetected and untreated, chlamydia can lead to the following complications in women:

- Pelvic inflammatory disease

- Inflammation of the cervix

- Blocked fallopian tubes – making it difficult to become pregnant

- Swollen Bartholin’s glands – potentially necessitating an operation

And in men:

- Painful inflammation of the urethra

- Epididymitis – potentially leading to infertility

- Arthritis

Diagnosis of chlamydia is incredibly quick and simple, often requiring just a swab sample. Treatment is usually similarly quick and painless – just a round of antibiotics, making it even more senseless to avoid getting checked up.

Hands holding condomsGonorrhoea

Lovingly referred to as The Clap; gonorrhoea accounts for more than 25,000 new infections every year, most prominently involving men and women under the age of 25.

The infection is spread in the same ways as chlamydia and again some sufferers do not experience any symptoms with 10% of men and roughly half of women seemingly unaware. However, when the infection does make itself known – here are the symptoms.


- Thick yellow or green vaginal discharge

- Pain when urinating

- Abdominal pain

- Heavier periods

- Bleeding after sex


- Unusual discharge from the tip of the penis

- Pain when urinating

- Swelling of the foreskin

- Tender testes

Gonorrhoea can also infect the rectum, throat and eyes of a sufferer.

Like chlamydia, undetected and untreated gonorrhoea can lead to some pretty devastating complications.


- Pelvic inflammatory disease

- Ectopic pregnancy – a fertilised egg which plants itself outside of the womb and does not develop into a baby

- Infertility

- Miscarriages

- Premature labour


- Reduced fertility

- Inflammation of joints and tendons

In extreme situations, untreated gonorrhoea can lead to inflammation around the brain, spinal cord (meningitis) and heart – which is potentially life-threatening.

Again gonorrhoea is incredibly quick, simple and painless to diagnose and treat – often with a course of antibiotics. This makes it bewildering that people will even risk leaving them undetected.

Genital Warts

The second most common form of STI in the UK, genital warts do no cause any serious health issues and generally cause little discomfort but they are pretty ugly and are hardly a desirable holiday keepsake.

Genital warts are just little bumps and growths on the skin, usually found around the vulva, cervix, inside the vagina, around the anus or on the upper thighs of women. In men, genital warts are found on the penis, on the scrotum, inside the urethra, around or inside the anus and on upper thighs.

Warts can be treated by applying a lotion or chemical to the area or destroying the tissue via freezing, heating or surgery.


Syphilis has grown increasingly more common over the past decade with between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases reported every year. When left untreated, syphilis can lead to some very serious complications including death.

People suffering from syphilis are also more prone to other STIs, including HIV/AIDS.

Syphilis can be transferred through vaginal, anal and oral sexual intercourse as well as sharing sex toys. In rarer cases – it can also be spread when sharing needles. The infection will develop in three stages when left untreated – with the third causing the most serious complications.

Primary syphilis can appear within three months of the infection and manifest itself in a painless sore or ulcer where the infection was transmitted. If the syphilis is untreated it will then develop into its secondary stage which could lead to rashes, growths, flu, swollen glands, weight loss and hair loss.

Syphilis will often move into its latent (hidden) form where symptoms are present but remain equally dangerous before developing into the tertiary phase which may cause:

- Stroke

- Dementia

- Loss of coordination

- Numbness

- Paralysis

- Blindness

- Deafness

- Heart Disease


It is important to catch syphilis during the primary or secondary stage as it can be treated with a simple penicillin injection in the buttock. Tertiary stage syphilis can be treated when caught early enough with three penicillin injections in the buttock.


One of the lesser-known STI, trichomoniasis is caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Roughly half of all infected people show no symptoms but it can lead to pain and discomfort.

The symptoms in women:

- Abnormal vaginal discharge

- Increased vaginal discharge – potentially with a fishy smell

- Soreness and itchiness of the vagina

- Pain during urination or sex

- Abdomen pain

The symptoms in men:

- Pain during urination and ejaculation

- Increased need to urinate

- Thin, white discharge from the penis

- Soreness and swelling around the head of the pen and foreskin

Trichomoniasis can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics – most commonly metronidazole.

Using a condom can help keep you protected from these STIs. The Freedoms Shop is full of high quality condoms from a selection of trusted brands and manufacturers. Additionally, if you are concerned that you may have also caught an STI and can’t get to a sexual health clinic– the Freedoms Shop also has a range of STI testing/screen kits available here. The kits will help identify an STI – and provide information about the next step for treatment and care.

Check out Part Four of our Summer Holiday Safe Sex Guide for information on Contraceptives.

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