Sexual Health Q&A

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What is post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS)?

Post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) is a rare condition in which people have flu-like symptoms after orgasm, either with a partner or through masturbation. The symptoms can start minutes or hours after orgasm and can last for several days afterward. Usually, the symptoms go away within a week.

POIS occurs more frequently in men, but it can happen in women.

Some people avoid engaging in sexual activity or starting new sexual relationships because of POIS. Others find that they need to schedule sex for a time when they can cope with the symptoms.

Symptoms of POIS may “cluster” in one particular area (like the nose or throat), or they may be more general. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Fever
  • Feeling excessively hot or cold
  • Watery or itching eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Difficulty concentrating

POIS is classified as primary or secondary.

People with primary POIS have had symptoms after orgasm since adolescence. Secondary POIS occurs later in adulthood.

Because POIS is so rare, it is unknown how many people suffer from it. However, some experts believe that it is under-reported and under-diagnosed.

Scientists do not know exactly what causes POIS, but there are some theories.

The symptoms might be the result of an allergy or autoimmune disorder. For example, a man might be allergic to his own semen.

However, people without known allergies can still have POIS. Another theory suggests that a chemical imbalance in the brain might be the cause.

There are no specific treatments for POIS, but some people manage symptoms by taking medications like antihistamines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or benzodiazepines.

People who experience flu-like symptoms after orgasm are urged to see their healthcare provider.

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