Does Having Sex When You’re Sick Make You Feel Better?

Does Having Sex When You’re Sick Make You Feel Better?

Does sex help when you are sick with a respiratory infection like a cold or the flu? As it turns out, it can-but only for the short term. Sex triggers endorphins that may provide temporary relief from symptoms, but those symptoms will come back quickly.

Having sex won’t cure you or shorten your cold, flu, or other respiratory infection, and it may even make it more likely that you’ll pass your illness along to your partner.

This article looks at the risks of sex during a respiratory infection, when you’re contagious, and what to consider for your partner’s benefit.

There’s no evidence that having sex when you’re sick will cure a respiratory infection or shorten its duration. Sex does make your body release endorphins, which can temporarily make you feel better.

Sexual arousal may also temporarily relieve a stuffy nose. This is because adrenaline makes blood vessels constrict. Reducing blood flow to vessels in the nasal passages and sinuses can help you breathe better. These effects don’t last very long, though.

Can You Sweat Out a Cold With Sex?

Sweating releases feel-good endorphins that, combined with the endorphins released from having sex, may make you feel better temporarily. However, there is no evidence that sweating can help you recover faster from a cold or significantly improve your cold symptoms.

There are risks to having sex when you’re sick, for both you and your partner. Unless your illness is minor and your partner is okay with the risk, it’s best to wait until you are well before you have sex.

Should You Have Sex When You’re Sick?

Respiratory illnesses are passed through droplets and saliva. Kissing, breathing close to each others’ faces, coughing, or sneezing while in close contact is a definite way to spread germs.

If you’re running a fever, you’re likely contagious. Fevers can make you feel achy and tired, so in most cases, you probably won’t want to have sex. But even if you do, it’s better for you and your partner to wait until you’re feeling better.

Fevers are common when you’re sick with respiratory illnesses like influenza (flu) or COVID-19. If you have a fever, experts recommend skipping exercise workouts. As sex can involve moderate to vigorous physical activity, it might be wise to skip sex until your fever is gone. Make sure you’re well-hydrated before you resume any kind of exercise, including sex.

Does Sperm Help With Sickness?

Sperm is packed with antioxidants, which reduce inflammation by fighting off free radicals in the body. Sperm also contains melatonin-a hormone your brain produces that regulates sleep. In theory, exposure to antioxidants and melatonin in sperm should make you feel better and sleep easier when sick, but there is no evidence to support these benefits.

How Do You Know if You’re Contagious?

The amount of time you’re contagious varies by illness. Most common germs can spread during the first few days of symptoms. Others can spread for as long as symptoms are present.

The flu, for example, is contagious 24 hours before symptoms start and up to seven days after. COVID-19 is contagious two days before symptoms start and up to 10 days after.

COVID-19 Isolation

  • You must be fever-free for 24 hours without having taken a fever-reducing medication and have improving symptoms before ending isolation. As long as you have any symptoms, stay home and isolate from others including those in your household. After your symptoms improve, continue practicing precautions, like wearing a mask and distancing for the next five days.
  • If you test positive, but don’t have any symptoms, you may still be contagious. For five days after the positive test result, take added precautions if you will be around others indoors.

Many viruses can be passed on even after you’ve started to feel better. And, if you have a weak or suppressed immune system, you may be contagious for even longer.

Unless you know for sure what illness you have, it’s best to wait until your symptoms have completely resolved before having sex.

Consider Your Partner’s Health

If your partner isn’t already sick with the same illness you have, they’d probably prefer to avoid catching it. Even if they initiate intimacy, you should bring up the risk.

Consider how your illness may affect your partner. Are they in a high-risk group that is likely to have more serious symptoms than the average person? Do they have a weakened immune system due to any medications or conditions? If so, it’s probably not a chance worth taking.

Some chronic conditions can be worsened by sexual activity. If you or your partner has one, ask your healthcare provider if you’re healthy enough for sex. That’s especially important if you have a flu or other illness on top of your usual health issues.


Sex can lead to a release of endorphins, which may give you temporary relief from your symptoms. The relief will be short-lived, however, and you might also pass your illness along to your partner.

Engaging in any kind of exercise should be avoided when you have a fever. It is best to avoid having sex until you’re feeling better and are no longer contagious. Different illnesses are contagious at different stages and for different durations, so the safest way to be sure is to wait until your symptoms are gone.

Bulut OC, Oladokun D, Lippert BM, Hohenberger R. Can sex improve nasal function?-an exploration of the link between sex and nasal function. Ear Nose Throat J. 2023;102(1):40-45. doi:561320981441

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