Ah, the holiday season—a time of joy, relaxation, and indulgence. But amidst all the fun, it's important not to neglect your sexual health. It’s easy to let go of your usual safe sex practices when you’re letting your hair down and having a good time.
Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or simply enjoying some time off, this blog will equip you with the knowledge and tools to stay sex savvy during the holiday period. From safe sex practices to accessing emergency contraception and post-holiday testing, we've got you covered.
Don’t forget your condoms
If you’re going on holiday and are a single pringle ready to mingle or in an open relationship, condoms should be at the top of your packing list. Practising safe sex is important no matter where you are or what time of year it is and shouldn’t be something you let slip. Even if you take a contraceptive, you should always use condoms with a new sexual partner to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Nobody wants a romantic holiday liaison to end with a troublesome infection and an awkward text.
You can get condoms for free from your GP or sexual health clinic, so stock up beforehand. But don’t worry if you find yourself condomless and abroad; you can buy them in pharmacies. Just make sure to get a trusted brand. In Europe, look for the CE Mark to ensure they are reliably tested.
And did you know, condoms are more likely to become damaged and break in the heat? With this in mind, keep them out of the sun and store them in a cool, dry place. Oily products such as sun cream can also damage latex, so try to avoid these from coming into contact with your condoms.
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If your holiday destination has a dry climate, you might find yourself with a dry climate of your own. Whether you're travelling with a partner or open to new encounters, lube can significantly improve comfort and pleasure during sex by reducing friction. This also helps prevent microtears in the vaginal tissue, which can provide an entry point for viruses and bacteria, increasing the risk of contracting an STI. Be sure to come prepared and pack your lube alongside your condoms.
Take pre-holiday precautions
Before embarking on holiday adventures, you might consider getting tested for STIs. Knowing your sexual health status provides peace of mind and helps protect your potential holiday partners. It's important to remember that some STIs may not show immediate symptoms, so getting tested is crucial, even if you feel perfectly fine.
Accessing STI test kits has become easier than ever. Yoxly offers discreet and convenient STI testing that allows you to take control of your sexual health from the comfort of your home. Simply order an at-home test kit, collect your samples, send them back for analysis, and get your results within 48 hours!
Consider emergency contraception
Accidents happen, especially during the holidays when your inhibitions are lower than usual. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, such as a split condom or forgetting to take a birth control pill.
Emergency contraception is available in two forms, the morning-after pill and the copper intrauterine device (IUDs). Whilst on holiday, the most convenient form of emergency contraception is the morning-after pill, which can be obtained at pharmacies, sexual health clinics, and some online services that provide emergency contraception. These pills work by delaying or preventing ovulation and must be taken within 3-5 days after having unprotected sex for them to be effective - the sooner you take them, the better.
If you’d rather be safe than sorry, you can also order the morning-after pill before you go on holiday, so it is on hand and ready to go in case of emergencies. However, this should never be relied on as a form of contraception, as it is only effective if you haven’t already ovulated.
The copper IUD, on the other hand, is a bit more invasive method of emergency contraception but is much more effective, with a risk of pregnancy of less than 1%. It is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into your womb. The copper it releases changes the environment in your womb so that an egg cannot implant. It can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex and can be kept in situ for 5-10 years as a long-acting method of contraception.
Recognising worrisome symptoms
While we hope your holiday is free of any sexual health problems, it's important to be aware of concerning symptoms that may arise. Early detection and treatment of STIs can prevent complications and protect your and your partners’ health in the long run.
Common STI symptoms to look out for include:
- Unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus
- Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
- Genital sores, warts or blisters
- Persistent itching
However, it's important to remember that not all STIs present symptoms. For example, approximately 50% of men and 70% of women infected with chlamydia do not have any symptoms. This means regular testing is the only way to ensure you are STI-free. If you experience any symptoms or are concerned about a potential infection, it's essential to seek medical advice and get tested as soon as possible upon your return.
After returning from your holiday, it's wise to carry out post-travel STI testing so that you can identify and address any potential infections early on. Many people don’t realise that some STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, have an incubation period, so they may not be immediately detectable after exposure.
The best way to maintain your sexual health if you are sexually active is to have yearly STI check-ups, even if you take precautions. Order one of Yoxly’s at-home testing kits to be proactive and follow up on your holiday hook-ups.
As you gear up for your well-deserved holiday, remember that being sex savvy is as important as packing sunscreen or a good book! You might be on holiday, but STIs and the risk of pregnancy are unfortunately ever-present.
The good news is by prioritising safe sex practices, carrying condoms and lube, getting tested before and after your trip, and being prepared with emergency contraception; you can protect your sexual health and ensure your holiday is only full of positive experiences. Now remember: stay safe, have fun, and enjoy your holiday to the fullest!