Skip to Content

Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents


What is a sexually transmitted disease?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is also called a sexually transmitted infection (STI). An STD is an infection caused by bacteria or a virus. STDs are spread by oral, genital, or anal sex. Some examples of STDs include HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea. An STD can lead to cancer and infertility.

What increases my child's risk for an STD?

  • Unprotected sex
  • Immature immune system and cervix
  • Being female
  • Alcohol, illegal drug use, or multiple sexual partners
  • Open sores or cuts, such as body piercings

What are the signs and symptoms of an STD?

Your child may have one or more of the following depending on the STD he has:

  • Blisters, warts, sores, or a rash, in the mouth or genital area that may be painful
  • Discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus that may have a foul smell
  • Fever, muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Inflammation and itching of the skin in the genital area
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, or pain during sex or when urinating
  • Sore throat, mouth ulcers, or trouble swallowing
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sex in females

How is an STD diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about his symptoms. If your child is female, she may need a pelvic exam to check her vagina, cervix, and other organs. Your child may also need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests may show an infection and what kind it is.
  • A sample of discharge may show what is causing your STD.

How is an STD treated?

Treatment depends on the STD that your child has. Your child may be given antibiotics if the STD is caused by bacteria. He may be given antivirals if it is caused by a virus. Your child may also be given antifungals for a fungal infection, such as a yeast infection. Early treatment may decrease your child's risk for certain cancers and prevent infertility.

How can an STD be prevented?

Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information about the following safe sex practices:

  • Your child should not have sex with someone who has an STD. This includes oral and anal sex.
  • Encourage your child to use 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.
  • Get your child screened for STDs regularly if he is sexually active. He should be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis. Girls should get a pap smear to test for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer may be caused by certain STDs.
  • Get your child vaccinated. Vaccines may help prevent your child's risk of some STDs. Your child should get vaccinated against hepatitis B and the human papilloma virus (HPV). Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information on vaccines for STDs.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has severe abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Your child has genital swelling or pain, or unusual bleeding or discharge.
  • Your child has painful urination.
  • Your child has joint pain, a rash, swollen lymph nodes, or night sweats.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's symptoms do not go away or they get worse, even after treatment.
  • Your child's partner has an STD.
  • Your child is pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 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 IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.