By Dr Tabitha Morrison
International travel brings opportunities for shopping, sand and sex! There are a few souvenirs, however, that are not ideal to bring back in your crew baggage.
Here are the top five sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that cabin crew are exposed to, and ways to avoid and/or treat, them with a few myth busters thrown in.
– the most common bacterial STI in the UK – it often has no symptoms and so is passed on easily to others through unprotected sex. A simple urine test for men and a self-taken swab for women will diagnose chlamydia. The treatment is just two antibiotic tablets. Easy!
– a bacterial infection, which causes a greenish discharge in 85% of men who have the infection in their penis. Women get symptoms in about 50% of cases. If you have symptoms it is best to go to your local sexual health clinic where they can diagnose and treat on the spot. Treatment is two antibiotic tablets and an injection in your buttock. In men who have sex with men, chlamydia and gonorrohoea can be in your mouth and rectum too – so these will need a swab – you can take these swabs yourself if you have no symptoms.
is a virus, which causes cold sores – either on your genitals or on your mouth. The ulcers are painful, but will usually settle in around 7 days. They are transmitted by skin to skin contact rather than through semen or vaginal fluid. Wearing condoms can decrease transmission. Treatment is oral tablets for 5 days, with pain relief.
are caused by the human papilloma virus which is passed through skin to skin contact in the genital region. Warts look like small cauliflower florets and they can sometimes itch. People often find them unsightly and removal is cosmetic. Treatment is cream put directly on the warts a few days a week. The new vaccine aims to prevent the different strains of warts which are linked to cervical, anal and head and neck cancers, however the strains of virus that cause visible warts are not those linked to cancers.
– for those of you living south of Gatwick, be aware that there is a syphilis epidemic currently. Predominantly seen in men who have sex with men, this can again present with an ulcer (chancre), but this time, it is painless. If this goes unrecognized, patients then present with secondary syphilis, often a non-itchy rash. Treatment involves a penicillin injection in the buttocks.
If you have any concerns about your sexual health, your local friendly sexual health clinic will be happy to help. It is important to know that sexual health clinics are wholly confidential, you are free to give a false name (Mickey Mouse is very popular) and that we do not contact your GP, friends or family.
Many men are concerned that a large painful umbrella will be inserted in their penis– however in reality, in a person with no symptoms, there is nothing more than a ‘pee in a pot’. Women with no symptoms are free to do a self-taken swab – no speculum required.
In those who have symptoms, men require a small swab from the tip of their penis (and rectum if necessary) and women will require a speculum examination.
All patients are offered a blood test for HIV and syphilis, most important, as their symptoms are minimal.
Condoms and lube are freely available in clinic to suit all shapes, sizes and allergies.
The team at the sexual health clinic are happy to explain all about ANY sexually transmitted infections and will guide you as to how to explain to recent partners about how they need to be treated too – this can be done anonymously if that is preferred.
We look forward to seeing you at your local sexual health clinic and if you are at the Claude Nicol Unit in Brighton – do say Hi!
Dr Tabitha Morrison MBBS BSc DCH DRCOG MRCGP works as a Clinical Medical Officer at The Sussex Beacon (a unit for people living with HIV) and the Claude Nicol Centre, the Sexual Health Clinic at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.
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