The flu can be such an inconvenience, keeping you holed up in your home feeling like a sack of phlegm. But so long as you can keep the ooze factor under control—and you have a willing partner—you can still get sexy. And to great gain: The flood of sex-induced endorphins will help ease your pain, at least temporarily.
So we set out to determine which positions are safest—meaning, which ones pass on the fewest germs. The good news is that the viruses that carry the flu or common cold don't live on semen or in vaginal fluids, says Charles Gerba, a microbiology professor at the University of Arizona. So it is technically possible to have sex without passing along the flu. The bad news (or potentially more good news, depending on your perspective) is that the viruses do live in saliva, so lip-locking is off limits. "If you kiss, you're going to get sick," says Gerba. "And we've found that the influenza virus can live for three days on the couch." So you're best off in a bed with brand-clean sheets.
Flu viruses also live, to a lesser extent, on the skin, and they can be transmitted through hot, heavy breathing or close physical contact. So if you're doing either of those, you're accepting some risk.
Now to the positions. We've given them each a score between of 1 (safest) and 5 (good luck with that).
Flu risk: 2
Lips-to-genital contact is unlikely to pass on serious germs since there's no mouth-to-mouth saliva exchange, and you can't catch a cold or flu via your sex organs (thank god). But here's the question: Do you really want to fill your mouth with another person's genitals when your nose is already more stuffed than a Christmas turkey's ass? Breathing is good, you know. But if you decide to go for it, try to take a shower immediately afterward, says Gerba.
Flu risk: 5
The most vanilla of all positions turns out to be the riskiest in terms of flu exchange. The close proximity allows each partner to breathe the other's foggy breath, and there's an increased likelihood that you'll sneeze on each other. Sexy! And even if you don't ah-choo flu germs into each others orifices, you may be swept away by passion and find yourself kissing. Which, as we've established, is strictly forbidden.
On Top, Facing Each Other
Flu risk (if person on top is sick): 4
Flu risk (if person on bottom sick): 2
Smart move putting a few feet of distance between your faces, but if anybody coughs, the risk of infection jumps exponentially. "And it's more dangerous for the person on the bottom, because the person on top is going to send aerosols downward while the person on bottom inhales them," says Gerba. Thanks for the visual, doc.
Flu risk: 2
As soon as you stop facing each other, the likelihood of infectious-aerosol inhalation goes way down. In fact, that's how it goes for any position that helps you avoid hacking all over each other—doggy style, anal, and spooning all fall on the safe side of the sick spectrum. The less likely you are to have mouth-to-mouth action or inhale someone's breath, the more likely it is that you'll have have shivers from orgasm rather than a fever. "Still, you want to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately afterward—on your hands, to be clear," says Gerba.
Flu risk: 3
This one's hard to call, to be honest. Soap and water don't protect you from breathing in flu breath. And in the shower, you often assume a position of convenience, choosing doggy or face-to-face depending on which gives you the best chance of staying upright. Face-to-face sex increases your odds of passing a virus, says Gerba, and then there's the added risk of hard edges all around you. Hot water and physical exertion put people with flu at a higher risk of passing out, so while you might temper the risk of sickness by keeping your faces at a distance, you're better off doing so in the safety of pillows and sheets.
Flu risk: 1
There's no thrusting your way around it: If you're in the same room as someone who's sick, the risk of coming down with something exists. But the less contact you have, the lower your risk. So consider using your flu as a break from the usual grind—co-masturbation is as safe as sex can be. "It's an extremely underrated sex act," says Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist in California "Not many people do it, so the novelty of it can be quite thrilling. Plus there's the taboo of doing our most private act out in the open," she says. Feel free to break out the sex toys and speak up about what you'd like to be doing to each other, she says. Because dirty talk, unlike your dirty germs, will not spread infection.
Read This Next: Oh Good, There Are New STDs Spreading