Men wellness: Why do I get sick after intimacy?

Most men have such extreme fatigue post-ejaculation that they start to avoid sexual activity altogether. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Over the years, discussions on male sexual health have always revolved around erectile dysfunction and premature and delayed ejaculation, overshadowing other disorders that require prompt medical attention.

Few talk about a condition that causes men to have flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue, weakness, loss of concentration and irritability immediately after ejaculation.

“Can a man have an allergic reaction to his own sperm? I mean, get sick an hour after ejaculating?” One man asked.

This condition is called post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), says Ahmed Yousef, an urologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.

The condition affects a small number of men. It causes a range of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms after sexual activity, especially orgasm. These symptoms can significantly impact the man’s quality of life and cause emotional distress.

Prof Yousef says POIS is a less-known syndrome, even among some medical professionals. This is due to a lack of awareness and the fact that affected men shy away from discussing.

According to the urologist, POIS is caused by an allergic reaction to semen.

“It is a psychological condition that can manifest as a physical sickness. Despite being painless and lacking any noticeable health effects, if left untreated, it can significantly impact a man’s physical performance, particularly regarding sexual function. Additionally, some men may experience fatigue that can cause them to remain at home,” he says.

Although the syndrome has been reported in females too after an orgasm, primarily, most of the data and case reports come from male patients.

“The peak of POIS syndrome normally happens to middle-aged people since they are more sexually active. However, the younger and the older males can also experience it,” says Prof Yousef.


A patient experiences a range of symptoms, which include fever, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, fatigue, painful and heavy muscles, concentration difficulties, and irritation.

According to Prof Yousef, these symptoms seem to be independent of how ejaculation is achieved, whether through masturbation, intercourse, or night-time spontaneous emission. The symptoms are also absent when sexual activity has occurred, but ejaculation has not been achieved.

“The symptoms usually begin within minutes after ejaculation and can last between 15 minutes up to two weeks in some patients and spontaneously resolve until the next ejaculation,” he says.

The consequences of POIS on the patient and the partner are significant, with many expressing feelings of guilt and concern regarding their sexual relationships.

Most men have such extreme fatigue post-ejaculation that they start to avoid sexual activity altogether.


Currently, there is no known cure for POIS. However, Prof Yousef says patients can be treated with medicine that reduces allergies and inflammation, similar to other autoimmune diseases.

“Medications such as antihistamines for allergies are given to the patient as well as testosterone boosters such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG),” he says.

Despite several tried treatment strategies, success cannot be guaranteed. Prof Yousef recommends that patients be counselled appropriately.

He, however, says that one will suffer whether they engage in sexual intercourse or not.

There is no data on POIS prevalence in Kenya. Globally, the prevalence is between one to three percent, indicating a lack of awareness of the syndrome and the need for more research.

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