Gonorrhea (confirmed exposure) Care Plan

By David Morley, MD
Medically reviewed
August 17, 2021

Facts you should consider before starting your treatment for suspected gonorrhea: 

  • The ideal treatment for gonorrhea exposure is an injection, and all we can offer you is an oral medication. If you prefer to have us help you find a location to get an injection, all you have to do is let us know. 
  • If you’ve been exposed to gonorrhea, you could have also been exposed to other STDs, like chlamydia, HIV, syphilis or hepatitis, which require separate treatment – and if left untreated, can cause serious complications, including infertility and death.
  • People who receive treatment for a potential/suspected sexually transmitted infection don’t always actually have it. Taking medication if you do not in fact have an infection can be dangerous, because if you do contract an infection in the future, your body will have developed resistance to treatment.
  • The treatment you’re about to receive for Gonorrhea does not treat chlamydia or other STDs. We can order testing for some STDs and help you find evaluation and treatment for other STDs. All you have to do is let us know.

Next steps

  • Avoid all sexual activity for at least one week after treatment (and if you have symptoms, until your symptoms have resolved). 
  • Complete the entire course of the antibiotics you were prescribed. Taking a partial course can result in partial treatment of your infection! 
  • Contact your sexual partner(s) so they can be treated 
  • It is crucial that you test for gonorrhea and other STDs 3 months after treatment to make sure that you’ve gotten the right treatment and that you do not have any infections. 

See a doctor in person if

  • You experience high fever, moderate to severe abdominal pain, or persistent vomiting.

Check with K if

  • You decide you want testing for STDs
  • Your develop symptoms of STDs (as described above) 

What is gonorrhea? 

Gonorrhea, along with chlamydia, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – contracted through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s highly contagious and treated with antibiotics.

Signs and symptoms 

People may not have any symptoms after an exposure, but when symptoms are present they may include: 

  • Women: vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, vaginal redness and swelling, vaginal itching or burning, painful urination, frequent urination (peeing very often) and/or painful sexual intercourse.
  • Men: burning sensation during urination, unusual penile discharge, lower abdominal pain, testicular pain and/or occasional swelling. 

Diagnosis and treatment

  • Testing can be done through a simple urine test, or by swabbing the infected site, including the genital area, rectum, or throat.
  • Treatment is antibiotic, most commonly an injection of Ceftriaxone. 

Learn more about gonorrhea 

What is chlamydia? 

Chlamydia, along with gonorrhea, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – contracted through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection and is treated with antibiotics. 

Signs and symptoms 

People may not have any symptoms after an exposure, but when symptoms are present they may include: 

  • Women: vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, vaginal redness and swelling, vaginal itching or burning, painful urination, frequent urination (peeing very often) and/or painful sexual intercourse.
  • Men: burning sensation during urination, unusual penile discharge, lower abdominal pain, testicular pain and/or occasional swelling. 

Diagnosis and treatment 

  • Testing for chlamydia can be done through a simple urine test, or by swabbing the infected site, including the genital area, rectum, or throat.
  • Treatment most commonly includes oral antibiotics (azithromycin or doxycycline). 

Learn more about chlamydia

Why testing is key 

If you’re sexually active, you should consider STD testing an important part of your overall health plan. STDs are common and contagious, but sometimes asymptomatic— meaning you can contract an STD and pass it to others without even realizing it. If left untreated, STDs can cause long-term health consequences for both patients and their sexual partners, which is why early detection and treatment are critical. 

How and where to get in-person testing and treatment for other STDs

Where to get tested for HIV 

Where to find free STD testing

STD prevention & safe(r) sex

There are many definitions of safe sex. Some define it as sexual contact in which bodily fluids like blood, semen, or vaginal fluids are not exchanged. Others define it as sexual contact between two monogamous partners who have both been tested for STDs and found negative. A more general understanding of safe sex is sex using a barrier method of protection against STDs and unplanned pregnancy. 

Some sexual health professionals prefer the term “safer sex,” to “safe sex,” as all sex carries some risk – whether it’s of infection or pregnancy – even if precautions are taken. While there is no guaranteed way to avoid STDs without abstaining from sexual contact, here are some guidelines for safer sex that offer maximum protection against STDs and unwanted pregnancy. 

Learn more about STD prevention

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

David Morley, MD

Dr. Morley specializes in emergency medicine and received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in New York City. He completed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.