Apr 15, 2014

Dr. Gellner: If you've never had the talk about sexually transmitted infections with your child, you really need to. It's a big issue. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner and that's next on The Scope.

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Dr. Gellner: So what are common sexually transmitted infections that we see? Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are two of the biggest ones. Genital warts are also pretty common. Herpes, not the kind that causes cold sores, but the kind that causes blisters in the private area, that's something that we don't see very often, but it is something that you need to be aware of. Trichomonas, we don't see that much, but it's also one to be worried about. Then, Hepatitis, which is A, B, and C, those are liver infections, and HIV. There are some, like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea that can be cured with antibiotics, but others, like HIV, there's no cure. Some of the sexually transmitted infections can make children very sick. Some of them can affect their future fertility and, in some cases, they can cause death. Quite often, the teenagers don't even know that they have one of these sexually transmitted infections if they've been sexually active and have not used protection. Quite often, they don't have any symptoms and they may not feel sick, but they can still spread the disease to their sexual partners. If a girl has a sexually transmitted infection, especially chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus, Herpes, even warts, if your daughter gets pregnant, they can be transmitted to the baby and cause serious problems, including death and deformities, for the baby that's growing inside of her. Most people know sexually transmitted infections are passed to partners between sex. It's not just vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex can also transmit sexually transmitted infections.
So, what are the symptoms? If you've actually been infected and it's been a little while since you've been infected and you're starting to have symptoms, what are the symptoms you need to be aware of and what are the symptoms you need to see your doctor right away for and get test for? The biggest one, that everyone, usually, knows, is burning or pain when you urinate. That's a key one that a lot of people have as the first symptom. Also, having unusual discharge, itching, burning, or pain, sores, or blisters around the vagina and the penis are also really things that you need to pay attention to. And, one other thing, is if your child is still having sex while they have an active sexually transmitted infection, they actually can find sex pretty painful. So, when your child is seen by a pediatrician for anything that's concerning their sexual history, you're going to have to be open with your pediatrician. Your child will have to discuss the symptoms they're having and they're also going to have to discuss their sexual and medical history because, quite often, if your child tests positive for a sexually transmitted infection, your child will also have to contact the partners that they've had sex with recently to let them know that they have tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection and that they, the partners, also need to be treated as well.
For a lot of teenagers, it's a sensitive subject and, if your teenager does not want to talk to you about it or the partner of your teenager is worried that their parents are going to find out if they go somewhere and then it shows up on their parents' insurance bill and they want to do this quietly, it is legal for them to go to Planned Parenthood and get the testing done and the treatment done. There's a lot of places at health departments where you can get this service as well. So the one thing, too, make sure your child knows if they are having sex, they need to be open and it's not something that they should really be embarrassed about if they are having symptoms that are concerning. This is something that you want to get treated early for so that you can prevent complications.
So how can you help prevent sexually transmitted diseases in your teenager? Again, when you're having the sex talk with your teenager, let them know it's okay to wait to have sex. They can wait as long as possible. The younger your child is, when they start having sex, the more likely it is that they will get a sexually transmitted infection. Also, if they are having sex, be sure that they have sex with only person. And it's okay to have your child tested for sexually transmitted infections, have their partner tested for sexually transmitted infections. If they are clean, then you know you can continue to have protected sex and know that you're going to be free of infections because you're still having sex with that one person. Condoms, they actually do protect against a lot of sexually transmitted infections, especially like gonorrhea and chlamydia. They don't provide full protection against genital warts and herpes, but they do provide better protection than nothing alone. The one thing you can do, there are vaccines that will help protect against sexually transmitted infections. Your child, as a baby, would have received hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines. And the human papilloma vaccine, they can get, with the 11 year old vaccines, we talk about that at every single 11 year old well visit when they're getting their other vaccines for junior high, be sure to take advantage of this vaccine. So, I'm a parent, too. I know having the talk can be hard, but it's one thing that you really need to do to help benefit your child's health. Emotionally, physically, you need to have this talk with them. Be open, be honest, and reassure them that nothing they say will make you love them any less. The dangers, the embarrassment, the possible complications of having unprotected sex are far worse than having the talk.

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