STI symptoms: Putrid sweat smells in men and onion odours for women could signal infection

STI symptoms can range from mild to severe — and they can affect different parts of the body. After an initial infection, it can take days, weeks, months, or even years for symptoms to appear. Certain odours can be a clear indicator you may have a STI.

Researchers from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia revealed in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that adult males with gonorrhoea had a putrid smell, as far as many adult females were concerned.

This was the first study to look into smell modifications in humans, due to infection, and what impact that might have in choosing a sexual partner.

In previous animal studies it had been demonstrated that rats and mice pick up on chemical signals to avoid sexual contact with infected potential mates.

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It was found that the female participants were able to distinguish pleasant and unpleasant armpit sweat smells, and whether the differences might be linked to gonorrhoea infection, no infection, or recent infection.

The women described the odour from infected individuals as less pleasant compared to the healthy and recently recovered men.

A very high proportion of samples from the infected men were rated as putrid (rotten, rancid).

The authors wrote of their findings: “Perhaps, the immune-dependent reduction of the scent pleasantness in the acute phase of STI is part of an evolutionary mechanism ensuring, unconsciously, avoidance of a risky romantic partner.”

Trichomoniasis is a type of STI which is known to cause an unpleasant-smelling discharge.

The discharge may be yellow or green, and the vulva may feel irritated.

Doctors will treat the infection with medication and will often recommend abstaining from sexual activity until the infection clears.

All sexual partners should also seek treatment so that the infection does not continue to pass back and forth.

A GP should be able to diagnose the cause of a vagina smelling like onions and will usually ask about any additional symptoms that have occurred.

If a bacterial infection is the cause for the smell, the GP may prescribe antibiotics.

However, if a person has frequent or recurrent infections, a preventative medication may be necessary.

If the vagina smells mildly of onions, keeping a food diary can also help as there may be a number of causes pertaining to the smell particularly if strong-smelling food has been recently consumed.

The main symptoms of STI’s to be aware of include:

  • Sores or bumps on the genitals or in the oral or rectal area
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Unusual or odorous vaginal discharge
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during sex.

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