Health advice: Share affection, not infection, this Valentine's Day

Health advice from Dr Alexandra Phelan ahead of Valentine's Day.
Health advice from Dr Alexandra Phelan ahead of Valentine's Day.

Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day in the calendar, however the potential health implications of this passionate time of year can concern doctors and it’s worth taking time to think about the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Technology has transformed the way that people, particularly young people, learn about sexual relationships and it poses new challenges that healthcare professionals face in encouraging a healthy and responsible attitude towards sex.

Given easy online access to a vast array of explicit material, today’s young people probably feel that they know more about sex than any other generation.

However, there is evidence that they may not be taking the precautions that they should, as young people are more likely to be diagnosed with an STI than older age groups.

While sex education isn’t compulsory at school, the vast majority of young people do receive some form of sex education.

You may think that this should only be discussed with teenagers who you know are sexually active, but preparing children as they start to become sexually aware can help to reinforce safe sex messages time and again.

Teaching children about all aspects of love, dating and sex is important – don’t just talk about the mechanics.

Teach them that they are in control, that it is their body and they should never do anything they don’t feel happy with or don’t want to. Give them the confidence to make their own decisions.

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Explain that unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy.

To protect against both, the only reliable method is barrier contraception – otherwise known as female and male condoms.

Emergency contraception is available, but that doesn’t protect against STIs.

Should you, a family member or someone you know contract an STI, there are treatments and repeat prescriptions available dependant on the type.

So talk to your local or online doctor about your options and get tested regularly.

Dr. Alexandra Phelan, who writes this column, is an NHS GP and Online Doctor for Pharmacy2U. Manage your repeat prescriptions by going to