STD Testing – How Long After Exposure Should You Wait to Get Tested?

STD Testing How Long After Exposure

Every STI (sexually transmitted infection) has a unique incubation period. It’s important to know the incubation period before you decide to get tested.

Often, testing too early can lead to inaccurate results and can potentially make you think you’re STD-free when in fact, you may not be. Fortunately, there are specific windows for getting tested after exposure to each STI.


Herpes, also called genital herpes or oral herpes, is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1. This infection is very common and occurs in both men and women.

Symptoms of herpes include tingling and pain in the affected area, blisters that eventually burst into painful sores, and itching. In some cases, people who get herpes have no symptoms at all.

A herpes outbreak usually begins in the genital area about 2 days to 12 days after sexual contact with someone who has the herpes virus. Symptoms begin as groups of tiny red bumps that gradually develop into blisters and then erupt into painful open sores.

Herpes tests are made by taking a fluid sample, or culture, from the lesions as early as possible. Ideally, the sample is taken within 48 hours of the appearance of symptoms.


Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It can be contracted from unprotected sex, which includes vaginal, oral, and anal sex.

It can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics called azithromycin. Treatment is usually effective, but it can take about six weeks for the bacteria to be completely gone from your body.

The infection also can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a leading cause of ectopic pregnancy.

Because of this, it’s important to get tested regularly for chlamydia. Your healthcare provider will determine how often to test you based on your risk factors.


Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and rectum (the part of your body that holds your vagina).

In women, it can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease. This can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and her baby.

Most infections start within 1 day to 2 weeks after exposure, so it’s important to get tested right away. The test uses a swab from your urethra, cervix, anus or throat and will normally give results within a week.


Trichomoniasis is a parasite that can cause infection of the vagina and the urethra in women. It can also infect the head of the penis or prostate gland in men.

Infected people may have no symptoms, but some can get a discharge or a burning sensation when they pee. Symptoms usually show up five to 28 days after exposure.

Health care providers can diagnose trichomoniasis by looking at a sample of vaginal fluid for women or a swab from inside the penis (urethra) for men under a microscope. They can also look at a sample of urine. Sensitive tests, such as a rapid antigen test and nucleic acid amplification test, can spot the parasite.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is most common in people who have vaginal sex, but it can also happen with oral sex.

The first stage of syphilis is called primary syphilis and happens two to 12 weeks after you’re exposed to the bacteria. The infection starts with a small, round sore called a chancre. This sore is usually painless, but sometimes it doesn’t go away quickly.

This sore can appear anywhere the bacteria entered the body, such as on or inside the mouth, genitals, or the bottom of the anus (rectum). A skin rash may develop.

Syphilis that goes untreated can lead to severe damage of the heart, bones, nerves, and organs. It can also cause brain damage and dementia.

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