Semen Allergy

Since returning from the Persian Gulf War 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. This condition is called semen allergy or 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 this allergy.

Semen allergy (HSPH) 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.

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.

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  

Vaginal burning with semen contact

Semen Allergy suggests the following may be present


Allergy / Intolerance 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



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.


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
Proven definite or direct link
Likely to help
Highly recommended



Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.


Commonly known as hives, urticaria is one of the most common dermatological conditions seen by allergists. Urticaria is not just an allergic disease, however. It can be caused by metabolic diseases, medications, infectious diseases, autoimmune disease, or physical sensitivity. Traditional allergies to foods or medications as well as viral illness are frequent causes of acute urticaria which usually lasts only a few hours but may last up to 6 weeks. Chronic urticaria (lasting more than 6 weeks) is more complex, given the vast number of potential triggers. Symptoms include sudden onset; initial itching; then swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin-colored welts (wheals) with clearly defined edges; welts turn white on touching; new welts develop when the skin is scratched; usually disappear within minutes or hours. Welts enlarge, change shape, spread or join together to form large flat raised areas.


Recurring attacks of transient, subcutaneous edema (water retention/swelling of tissue), often due to an allergic reaction.

Anaphylactic Shock

Also known as anaphylaxis, this is a serious and rapid allergic reaction usually involving more than one part of the body which, if severe enough, can kill. It is characterized by decreased blood pressure and impaired respiration.


Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.

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