Probably the last thing you feel like doing when you’re nursing a cold or the flu is getting hot and bothered. But here’s a reason to reconsider: People who have sex one to two times a week actually produce more of the antibody that prevents illnesses, which boosts your immune system. Sex, one could argue, might actually help you get over your illness.
If you are up for bumping and grinding, you don’t want to get your partner sick—otherwise you’ll end up passing your germs back and forth endlessly. Colds and the flu are viral infections, so “they’re transmitted via saliva and breath,” Felice Gersh, MD, an ob-gyn and the founder and director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in California, tells Health. “Anything you can do in bed to lower contact between your mouths would prevent transmitting illness,” she says.
While certain face-to-face positions are off the table (sorry, missionary) and kissing is out of the question, there are plenty of pleasure-producing moves you can still enjoy. Next time you’re sniffly but horny, try one of these sex positions.
Sure it sounds tame, but lying near your partner on a bed and playing with just yourselves has some sweet benefits. “You aren’t actually touching or exchanging fluids, so there’s little risk of spreading a cold,” August McLaughlin, author of Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment, tells Health. “It can also be extremely hot to watch a partner play with their sexy parts while taking you in with their eyes. Plus, many people experience orgasm faster during solo play, which can be helpful when you’re turned on but lack energy.”
Getting it on back to front is one of the easiest ways to avoid the face-to-face connection. “The ‘little spoon’ has their face turned away from their partner completely,” Kayla Lords, a sex expert at online sex toy shop Jack and Jill, tells Health. “This position also allows for vaginal penetration, anal penetration, or stimulation with hands or sex toys, so there’s no shortage of pleasure.”
The problem with missionary is that it positions your face too close to your partner’s. This variation switches things up a bit. “One of you needs to sit up while your partner is lying flat on their back,” Laurel House, a sex expert with sex toy company My First Blush, tells Health. “If you’re the one seated, press your pelvises together, bend your knees, and sit on your calves and feet so your torsos are perpendicular.” You’ll get the same clitoral g-spot stimulation as with regular missionary without the risky mouth-breathing.
Because you can’t see (or breathe into) each other’s faces, doggy style is a no-brainer when you’re under the weather. “You can do it in a variety of positions: on all fours with your head up so you don’t have to deal with a runny nose, on your knees with your head on the bed or pillow if you’re just totally wiped, or somewhere in between,” suggests Lords.
This is similar to missionary, but the partner on top should evenly distribute their weight on the bottom partner while resting their head over that person’s shoulder, advises McLaughlin. “The top person slides up and down while keeping as much body contact as possible, which is great for clitoral stimulation,” she adds. It’s a win-win: lots of direct stimulation without being directly in each other’s faces, which would make spreading nasty germs more likely.
This one’s a bit more complicated logistically, so if your cold is making you fuzzy-headed, you might want to save it for later. “Both of you will have your legs scissored open, intertwining them so that you push together at the pelvis,” says House. “With your heads on opposite sides of the bed, reach out to hold hands in the middle, helping with pumping and grinding.” The major plus here: Your faces will be completely away from each other, putting the brakes on any germ swapping.
In this position, one partner sits in a chair while the other sits on top of them, facing away. “While this may be most common for vaginal penetration, it can be used for anal sex and digital penetration, as well,” says Lords. It’s also the perfect position for letting the person on top control the speed and intensity. “If you’re feeling up for it, you can move vigorously, or you can go slower if your cold still has you down,” she says.
Planking on pillows
If doggy style is just too much for your beleaguered body, add some support. “One partner lies on their stomach on top of one or two pillows, with their weight resting gently on their forearms and their head poised up,” explains McLaughlin. “The other partner enters vaginally or anally from behind.” Since both your heads are up, it’s less likely runny noses will kill your sex drive, and since you’re facing away from each other, there’s less chance of microbes spreading.
If you’re craving more of a face-to-face connection, sit in a cross-legged hug, with one person on the other’s lap. “You basically wrap your arms and legs around each other in a seated hug,” says McLaughlin. “But you aren’t poised mouth-to-mouth, which helps prevent cold germs from spreading.” It’s also a comfortable position that’s easy to maintain when you’re drained and fatigued.
While swapping saliva can pass your infection to your partner, saliva on your private parts poses no risk. If you’re the one who is sick, you’re probably not going to want to go down on your partner. “That doesn’t mean you can’t receive some good oral love,” says House. “Plus, if you’re on the receiving end, you can comfortably lie back, avoiding any runny nose or cough-inducing issues.”
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter