Ahh...! Ahh!... Achoo! Some Men Allergic to Their Own Sperm

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday February 3, 2011

Ever heard of lovers who are allergic to each other? It's not that common, but it does happen. So does another allergic reaction: that of some men to their own semen.

TIME reported on Jan. 20 that physicians sometimes see cases of men with such allergic sensitivity to their own semen that minutes after ejaculating, they may experience "flu-like symptoms."

The TIME article, which drew on a Jan. 17 Reuters news report, said that the condition is known as POIS, which stands for "post orgasmic illness syndrome." The condition has been documented for at least eight years, but is still little- known, even to doctors.

The list of symptoms that men suffering the allergic response exhibit includes fatigue, fever, and runny nose. The symptoms can linger for a week, the article said.

"They didn't feel ill when they masturbated without ejaculating, but as soon as the semen came from the testes... they became ill, sometimes within just a few minutes," Ultrecht University's Marcel Waldinger, author of a pair of scientific journal articles on the affliction.

Waldinger, who is a sexual psychopharmacology professor at the Netherlands-based university, gave a group of 33 men suffering from the condition a skin-prick test using their own semen in a diluted solution, the article said. Only 5 of those tests turned out negative; the others all indicated that the men really were allergic to their own bodily fluids.

"These results are a very important breakthrough in the research of this syndrome," Waldinger told Reuters, adding that the positive test results indicated that the allergic reactions were not rooted in any psychological basis, but were rooted in real physical causes.

Waldinger also tested two men to see whether they would respond to standard allergy desensitizing treatment. In the course of such treatments, patients are given a series of injections over a long period of time; each injection contains a less dilute solution of the agent causing the allergic reaction. The treatments Waldinger administered took three years, but were seemingly worth the wait; both men responded to the treatment, and gained some measure of relief from their allergic reactions.

The course of treatment could take even longer for some. "It's a very slow process," said Waldinger. "It is used for all sorts of allergies and can sometimes take up to 5 years." Waldinger published his studies in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.