Semen Allergy

Semen Allergy: Overview

Alternative Names: Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity (HSPH).

As with any substance, it is possible to be allergic to seminal fluid and it is estimated that 5% of women have semen allergy. Since returning from the Persian Gulf War of 1991, veterans and/or their wives have reported burning after contact with semen.  This has been called Burning Semen Syndrome (BSS).  This syndrome is currently under investigation to establish whether it is toxic, immunologic or infectious in nature.  These reactions are similar to those experienced by women with established allergic reactions to their husband's semen.

Semen allergy was first reported by gynecologists in 1958, but the prevalence of the condition was basically unknown until a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine study in 1996.  Dr. Jonathan A.  Bernstein, the lead author of the study, said the disorder was much more common than previously recognized after a survey of 1,073 women who were suspected of having "semen allergy" symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of semen allergy can either be localized or systemic reactions.  The localized reactions can include vaginal burning, pain, swelling, redness, or blisters forming within 30 minutes of exposure to semen.  The systemic reactions can include generalized itching, hives, angioedema, wheezing, and in very rare cases anaphylaxis.  Semen allergies may also make it difficult to conceive.

Diagnosis and Tests

There are a number of diagnostic procedures available to help determine this allergy.  As always, you should report any symptoms to your physician so that they can rule out infections or other problems.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Semen Allergy:

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Semen Allergy suggests the following may be present:


Semen Allergy often suggests Allergy to Foods (Hidden) Allergy to Foods (Hidden)

There was found to be a greater prevalance of self-reported food allergy among women with systemic human seminal plasma hypersensitivity.  This supports the hypothesis that exposure and sensitization to semimal fluid could result from cross-reactivity with food proteins that are a part of the average daily American diet.  In other words, semen allergies could be connected to food allergies because of similar protein composition.

Recommendations for Semen Allergy:


Desensitization often helps with Semen Allergy Desensitization

Hyposensitization treatment is available.  This treatment is similar to the effects of allergy shots: the body is desensitized to the allergic effect of semen by gradually increasing the amount of semen that one is exposed to.

Preventive measures against Semen Allergy:


Condom Use usually prevents Semen Allergy Condom Use

Condoms can be used to prevent both localized and systemic reactions to semen.  Because of this protective effect, they can also be used to determine if a semen allergy is present.  There is a strong possibility that a semen allergy exists if there are symptoms when a condom is not used, but none when one is used.


Strong or generally accepted link: often suggests
Strong or generally accepted link:
often suggests
Definite or direct link: is a sign or symptom of; suggests
Definite or direct link:
is a sign or symptom of; suggests
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with
Very useful: usually prevents
Very useful:
usually prevents