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Sexually Transmitted Diseases In Adolescents

What is a sexually transmitted disease?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is an infection caused by bacteria or a virus. It is also known as a sexually transmitted infection. STDs are spread by oral, genital, or anal sex. Some examples of STDs include chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea. HIV and viral hepatitis are the most common sexually transmitted infections.

What increases my child's risk of an STD?

Your child is at risk for STDs when he becomes sexually active. The following may increase your child's risk of an STD:

  • Unprotected sex: Sexual contact that happens without the use of condoms increases the risk of an STD.

  • Immature bodies: Children have immature immune systems, which leads to an increased risk for STDs. Your female child's cervix is also immature and more susceptible to STDs.

  • Gender: Girls have higher rates for getting infected with chlamydia, HIV, and herpes, especially if they douche frequently. Girls are also more likely to get an STD if they have sex during their period.

  • Risky behaviors: Your child may be influenced by friends, classmates, community, and the media. He may not fully understand the dangers of these behaviors. Risky behaviors include alcohol and drug use. It also includes multiple sexual partners.

  • Open sores or cuts: This includes new tattoos or body piercings.

What are the signs and symptoms of an STD?

Your child may have no signs or symptoms. If signs or symptoms are present, he may have any of the following, depending on the STD he has:

  • Blisters, warts, sores, or a rash that may be painful

  • Discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus that may have a foul smell

  • Fever, headache, muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes in the groin

  • Inflammation and itching of the skin

  • Pelvic, scrotal, or abdominal pain, or pain during sex or when urinating

  • Sore throat, mouth ulcers, or trouble swallowing

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sex

How is an STD diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will examine him and closely look at the affected area. He may ask your child about his sexual history or other medical conditions. He will ask you if your child has had an STD before. If your child is female, she may need a pelvic exam to check her vagina, cervix, and other organs. Your child may also have any of the following:

  • Blood tests: These may be done to see if your child is infected with an STD.

  • Urine test: This may be done to find the cause of your child's symptoms. It may show if your child is infected with certain STDs.

  • Discharge sample: A sample of the discharge from the affected area may be looked at under a microscope or sent to a lab for culture. This will help caregivers learn what is causing your child's condition.

How is an STD treated?

Treatment depends on the STD your child has:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an STD caused by bacteria. Have your child take them as directed.

  • Antivirals: These are given to fight an STD caused by a virus.

  • Antifungals: These may be given for a fungal infection, such as a yeast infection.

What are the risks of an STD?

With treatment, your child's symptoms or infection may continue or come back. If left untreated, your child could spread the infection to his sexual partner, especially if he does not practice safe sex. The infection may spread and damage female organs, such as the fallopian tubes. An STD can also harm an unborn baby. An STD could lead to an ectopic pregnancy, or make it difficult to get pregnant. Some STDs may increase the risk of cancer. Some viral infections, such as hepatitis B or HIV, can cause serious illness and be life-threatening.

How can an STD be prevented?

Ask your child's caregiver for more information on the following safe sex practices:

  • Avoid infected partners: Your child should not have sex with anyone who has an STD. This includes oral and anal sex.

  • Condoms: Have your child use a latex condom every time he has sex. Tell him to use a new condom each time.

  • Limit sexual partners: Talk to your child about his sexual partners. Encourage him to have sex with only one person.

  • No sex during treatment: Your child must not have sex while he or his sexual partner is being treated for an STD. The untreated partner can be infected or reinfected.

  • Screening tests: If your child is sexually active, get him screened for STDs on a regular basis. This includes screening for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis. Girls need a Pap test.

  • Vaccines: Vaccines may help to prevent your child's risk of some STDs. Ask your child's caregiver for more information on vaccines for STDs.

Where can I find more information?

  • Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd.
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child's signs or symptoms get worse or come back after he finishes his treatment.

  • Your child is pregnant.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.

  • Your child has genital swelling or pain, or unusual bleeding.

  • Your child has joint pain, a rash, swollen lymph nodes, or night sweats.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.