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How do you get chlamydia without being sexually active?

Updated Feb 07, 2024. Written by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Chlamydia (sometimes called “the clap” or "the clam") is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is easily diagnosed, treated, and cured with a simple course of antibiotics. Although it is often transmitted through sexual activity, a chlamydia infection can surprisingly be contracted without engaging in traditional forms of sexual intercourse.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers that sexually transmitted infections can occur in your mouth, reproductive organs, urethra, rectum, and cervix.[1]

Chlamydia transmission

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you can get chlamydia through vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex.[1] This bacterial infection is usually spread through intimate sexual contact, though penetration and/or ejaculation is not required for it to be transmitted.

How do you get chlamydia without having sex?

There are many myths about how chlamydia is spread. It’s important to know that chlamydia is not transmitted through casual contact with an infected person (kissing or hugging, sharing food or drinks, or from toilet seats). With that in mind, lesser-known ways that chlamydia can be passed between people – apart from sexual contact – include:

  • Mother-to-Child Transmission: Pregnant women with genital chlamydia can transmit the infection to their baby during childbirth. [2] This form of transmission emphasizes the importance of STI testing during pregnancy.
  • Non-Sexual Transmission through Bodily Fluids: Chlamydia can be transmitted through direct contact with infected fluids. [3] This might occur in cases where there's an exchange of bodily fluid containing the bacteria, such as vaginal fluid or semen, without engaging in sexual activity.
  • Indirect Contact: Indirect transmission methods – such as sharing unwashed sex toys, towels, or undergarments – can potentially lead to a chlamydial infection. [3] This scenario is rare, but possible if the items are contaminated with infected fluids.

Who is at risk for chlamydia?

If you are younger than 25 years old, identify as a man who has sex with men or males, engage in sex work, were assigned female at birth, or if you/a partner has multiple sex partners, you may be at a higher risk of chlamydia.

If you are considered “high risk,” you should be tested more frequently—perhaps every three or six months.

Signs and symptoms of chlamydia

Unlike some STDs, like certain strains of herpes that cause genital warts or blisters, chlamydia does not usually manifest itself visibly. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people with chlamydia to not experience any symptoms at all. However, chlamydia symptoms in men and chlamydia in women can present themselves differently.

Both vulva owners and penis owners may experience abnormal discharge or a burning sensation while urinating. Penis owners may experience swelling in one or both testicles. [2]

Anal symptoms can arise and include rectal pain, anal discharge, and/or bleeding.[2]

Other potential symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Burning or itching at the tip of the penis
  • Vaginal bleeding (after sex or between periods)
  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic pain

Testing for chlamydia

The tricky thing about chlamydia is that many people with this STI don't experience any symptoms, so they don't feel compelled to seek out testing or care. STI testing, however, is the best way to keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

The risk of untreated chlamydia

If left undiagnosed and untreated, individuals may experience long-term effects of chlamydia specifically for people who are assigned female at birth.

Adverse health outcomes include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and more rarely, testicular infections. [2] In female anatomy, PID causes the formation of scar tissue, which can create blockages in the fallopian tubes and can lead to ectopic pregnancy and long-term pelvic/abdominal pain. [2]

Regardless of what anatomy you have, untreated chlamydia will result in the transmission of the infection from one person to another. Studies have demonstrated that chlamydia, when untreated, can also increase the risk of contracting HIV. [2]

What does testing entail?

Chlamydia is diagnosed through laboratory testing. There are two methods for sample collection—swabs and urine samples. Urine samples are collected in small cups. Swabs can be taken orally, vaginally, rectally, or from the cervix or throat [1].

How often should you be tested?

If you are sexually active, you should be tested for chlamydia at least once per year and/or after unprotected sexual encounters where you are unsure of the other person(s) STI status. Those at higher risk of infection should be tested more frequently.

If you are pregnant, you should be tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit because chlamydia infections during pregnancy can lead to transmission to the infant, eye infections, or pneumonia in your baby, and can cause early delivery. [2] Chlamydial infections during pregnancy have been connected to low birth weight and perinatal mortality. [4]

If you are diagnosed and undergo treatment for chlamydia, you should be retested three months after treatment because repeat infections are not uncommon.[2]

Treatment for chlamydia

Treatment for chlamydia includes a course of antibiotics that you should take as directed. Any sexual partner(s) from the previous 60 days should also be notified and tested. [1]

While undergoing treatment, the infection can be spread, so you should avoid sexual contact at least until the treatment is complete and/or until you can be retested [1].

Preventing chlamydia

Although it is curable, it is best to take preventative measures to reduce your risk of contracting chlamydia and/or other STIs. Some recommended practices include:

  • Communicate openly with your healthcare provider(s)
  • Converse honestly with your sex partner(s) regarding your sexual health and wellness
  • Practice safe sex
  • Get tested regularly (as chlamydia can sometimes come back even after treatment)

Practicing safe sex is an essential aspect of sexual wellness. However, it’s important to note that contracting chlamydia is equally possible regardless of whether you have had protected or unprotected sex with an infected person.

Everlywell helps you stay on top of your health

A 2018 study found that among women, just under one-third of women with STI symptoms were tested for chlamydia], [4] despite there being 1.5 million cases of chlamydia each year. [2] Everlywell is here to support you in maintaining your sexual health by helping to make sure you get the testing you need. We offer three testing options for you to do in the comfort and privacy of your own home: the Female STD Test, the Male STD Test, and the Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test. You can also rest assured knowing that your samples are being tested at CLIA-certified laboratories.

If your lab results are abnormal, Everlywell will also connect you with its national independent physician network to receive the appropriate treatment.

How to treat chlamydia: what the chlamydia treatment process is like

How long does chlamydia last?

How to prevent chlamydia


  1. FAQs: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Web site. URL. Updated January 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024.
  2. Chlamydia Infections. Medline Plus Web site. URL. Updated March, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024.
  3. Chlamydia. Cleveland Clinic. Updated February 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024.
  4. STDs During Pregnancy. CDC. Updated April 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024.

Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologistis an American Board of Sexology Certified Sexologist and trained Sexuality Educator who primarily works in sexual health communications as a health writer. Gillian earned her BA in Gender, Sexuality & Women's Studies and Spanish from Union College (NY), spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar, and then continued her education with Modern Sex Therapy Institutes before earning her MPH from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health with a Certificate in Sexuality, Sexual & Reproductive Health. She is the owner of The Gigi Spot, LLC, a digital sexuality education platform and brand. Gillian aims to educate and use compassion and empathy to foster positive change and development. Her professional interests include sexuality education, curriculum design and consulting, and sex technology.
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