How can you protect yourself and others from gonorrhea?

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Condoms can prevent gonorrhea ("the clap") and other sexually transmitted infections from spreading between sexual partners. Regular testing can also be a good idea for some people. It makes sure that infections are discovered at an early stage, treated and not passed on to others.

Also known as "the clap," gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted (STI). It is caused by a certain kind of – called gonococcus – that can get into the genitals, anus (bottom) or throat. Someone with gonorrhea can infect the people they have sex with, even if they haven’t got any of the typical symptoms such as a pus-like or watery discharge from the penis, vagina or anus.

The main way to protect yourself and others from gonorrhea is to get information and advice on what it is and how it’s spread. Doctors, local health departments and sexual health clinics can help here. Learning more about gonorrhea and its effects can encourage you to change your habits and, for example, use condoms more often.

How can you protect yourself during sex?

Condoms and femidoms (condoms for women) can stop the spread of gonococcus during sex. But only if you use them properly – during oral sex too, for instance. Special thin sheets known as dental dams can be used for oral sex.

If you want to share sex toys like dildos, it’s a good idea to put a condom on them, using a new one each time someone else uses the toy.

There are no medications that provide effective protection against gonorrhea. Research has not shown that germ-killing gels and vaginal suppositories prevent gonorrhea.

When does it make sense to do a gonorrhea test?

Generally speaking, if you notice a pus-like or watery discharge from your penis, vagina or anus, it’s best to do a gonorrhea test.

The risk of catching STIs like gonorrhea is greater in people who frequently have various different sexual partners and don’t use condoms. Then it makes sense to get tested regularly – roughly every three months. This makes sure that infections don’t go untreated, spread around your body and cause complications. Early and treatment also protects your sexual partners. You can find out where to get tested, and what it involves, here: “Gonorrhea tests.”

What can you do if the test is positive?

If you’re diagnosed with gonorrhea, there are two main things you need to do: Stop having sex, so you can’t infect anyone. And start treatment quickly. It usually takes 24 hours for the treatment to get rid of the . After that, the risk of infecting others is low. But experts do recommend waiting a week before you have sex again. They also recommend that you have a check-up two to four weeks after treatment, just to make sure it was successful.

There’s no need to disinfect household items or surfaces. You can also carry on shaking hands, hugging and cuddling as normal.

Talking about STIs can be unpleasant and stressful. But it’s important to tell anyone you might have infected about your . The best thing is to contact everyone you’ve had sex with in the past three months.

Once they know, they can get themselves tested and, if necessary, treated too. Otherwise, you might end up passing the back and forth.

How can newborn babies be protected?

Gonococcus can be passed from the mother’s genitals to the baby during childbirth. Then the bacteria usually infect membranes in the baby’s eyes, causing a serious eye with pus-like discharge (gonococcal conjunctivitis) if left untreated. In bad cases, the child may go blind.

It was because of this risk that, up until the 1980s, all newborn babies in Germany were given eye drops containing silver nitrate straight after birth. Although this medication got rid of the , it also sometimes caused irritation and in the eyes. Nowadays, there are antibiotic eye drops that have a gentler effect. In some countries, such as the United States, it’s still standard practice to give newborn babies these drops as a preventive measure.

But this practice is no longer recommended in Germany and other European countries. Instead, experts recommend a gonorrhea test at the beginning of pregnancy. It is sometimes carried out at the same time as the test that’s offered for chlamydia. Pregnant women who have an increased risk of getting gonorrhea – due to unprotected sex with different partners, for instance – can have a second test done in the last trimester of their pregnancy. If they’re diagnosed with gonorrhea, it can be treated during the pregnancy to protect the baby during birth.

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Curry SJ, Krist AH, Owens DK et al. Ocular Prophylaxis for Gonococcal Ophthalmia Neonatorum: US Preventive Services Task Force Reaffirmation Recommendation Statement. JAMA 2019; 321(4): 394-398.

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Wiyeh AB, Mome RK, Mahasha PW et al. Effectiveness of the female condom in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health 2020; 20(1): 319.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on July 24, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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