Is thrush contagious?

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Q: I'm wondering about thrush and if it can be passed on from person to person? Also is all thrush the same? Can vaginal thrush become oral thrush with unprotected sex.

Thrush (or Candidisasis) is an infection caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called candida (which is a type of fungus) which upsets the delicate balance of good bacteria found in the vaginal area and is probably the most common vaginal "complaint" in the world. This fungus can also be found in the mouth, the anus and under the foreskin and so all of those areas can be at risk of contracting thrush, but the vagina is probably the most susceptible and that's got a lot to do with its depth and warmth being the perfect breeding ground for certain bacteria.

The vagina itself is full of all sorts of good and bad bacteria and yeasts that it needs for health and hygiene, and things like discharge and other healthy vaginal functions are designed to keep it clean and balanced. Sometimes, however, this balance goes off kilter a bit and the most common consequence of that is thrush; a red and itchy, often painful, condition that can make those sensitive areas really unhappy.

For the most part, to answer your first question, no. If you are a reasonably healthy human with a good immune system thrush isn't particularly contagious or catchable and, while it definitely effects the "sex" areas, it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection.

In saying that, however, it's not impossible for it to be passed from one person to another, and sexual activity can exacerbate and irritate it and is probably not the best idea to engage in until you've got rid of it.

Oral thrush is pretty much exactly the same thing and is caused by the same build up of candida and, surprisingly to many, is most commonly found in newborn babies.

This is because, while thrush itself isn't contagious to people with strong immune systems, newborns don't really have any immunity at all and if the mother has vaginal thrush while giving birth (which is actually very common because pregnant people are very susceptible to it) she will pass it on to the baby into its mouth and even eyes and can cause a whole lot of pain and discomfort, trouble feeding (the nipples can also get thrush which would make breastfeeding virtually impossible) just all sorts of problems!

Some of the biggest causes of thrush are lack of good bacteria, lack of airflow, and over cleaning so it's really important to remember that, while you absolutely need to be clean and hygienic, there is such a thing as overdoing it.

Never douche or wash the inside of your vagina. You'll wash away all the good bacteria that's keeping it healthy. Always wear breathable cotton underwear because satins and nylons can create too much warmth and lack of airflow which is the perfect breeding ground for candida. For your mouth don't over mouthwash it and try and avoid dry mouth as much as possible (chewing gum can help). Antibiotics and diabetic medications can also cause thrush to thrive, and immunocompromised people need to be really careful.

The treatment is usually really easy. A one time pill and some cream to soothe the area is all that's needed in most cases, and it usually clears up within a week.

Like I said at the start, the Candida fungus is in all of our bodies and mostly in the areas we use for sexy time, so, while it's not easily transmitted,  and it's not looked at as an STI it can happen, so it's always good to be aware of how your bits are doing and how your sexual partners bit are as well.

Please note we made small edits to the original version we published earlier this week as it was pointed out by a member that Candida is a fungal infection not a bacterial infection as we had implied in the opening paragraph.

7 comments

  • NursenDoctor

    NursenDoctor

    More than a month ago

    Thrush is somewhat contagious. In males, it can appear as a mild skin irritation / dryness that doesn’t subside. See your doctor, who will likely suggest antifungal ointment and pretty soon, the problem will resolve. Otherwise you can end up transferring it back and forth between partners.

    Reply
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    KnightofSin

    More than a month ago

    I have two serious question in regards to "Thrush Infections", As a young guy in my earlier years I was never taught about thrush in a woman's vaginal area, but, women had expected me to know what thrush was without any advice, I found this quite demeaning.

    1. Can thrush fungal infection, appear like "sperm" i.e. can one seeing thrush for first time be mistaken for identifying it as sperm, are they similar in color and thickness, i.e. white and gooey?

    2. if a male penetrates (unknowingly) whilst a woman is secreting thrush, will the thrush infection affect the penis. i.e. are there any fungal sores, itching, or anything else that may affect the penis area?

    Thanks in advance.

    • DeliciousEva Photo

      DeliciousEva

      More than a month ago

      1. Thrush appears much more like cottage cheese. It's very white and lumpy. Sperm is far more translucent and runny. If it is mixed up with anything, it can look a little like infertile mucus discharge that a vagina produces in between ovulation cycles.

      2. No. It is not very commonly or easily transmitted sexually. It's not impossible,
      but you would probaby need to be rather unwell (cold and flu etc) and have lowered immunity, plus pH imbalances of your own. It would present similarly. Red and itchy. Cottage cheesy. And a strong smell.

      The treatment would be similar to a vaginal infection.

    • Account closed

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      Hi DeliciousEva, Thanks for response and clarifications. So basically Thrush is a white chuncky sort of secretion, and sperm is more clear.

      Just a question, have you ever (not you specifically, but generally) had a guy see it (the thrush) and question what it was? and mistake it for anything else?

      Thanks in advance.

    • DeliciousEva Photo

      DeliciousEva

      More than a month ago

      I'm not quite sure if you're trying to work out a diagnosis of your own here? If that is the case go and see a doctor. Yes, anyone who isn't a medical professional could absolutely see thrush and not know what it is. Penis people especially as it's nowhere near as common in that area as it is in vaginas.
      And I would recommend anyone who notices changes in look, feel, smell, and touch to their genitals to go and get it looked at properly by a doctor.

    • Account closed

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      No, not a diagnosis of my own at all, no I don't have anything to do with thrush.

      My question is based on performing cunnilingus on a woman, and if there a white secretion from the vagina, could it be mistaken for thrush or sperm if the guy is not aware of symptoms of thrush?

      Thanks advance for your responses.

    Reply
  • BareNakedLady73 Photo

    BareNakedLady73

    More than a month ago

    Thank you so much for this article.
    I've spent the better part of the last 4 months on IV and oral antibiotics. I've suffered thrush badly in this time; orally and vaginally.
    I had pretty well assumed that whilst having it vaginally that penetration probably wouldn't be for the best.
    Anyway, thanks again for this informative article. Greatly appreciated.
    Hanna

    Reply
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