It burns when I pee, but I’ve never had sex. What could this be?

It’s never fun to have to deal with pain like this! There are a lot of reasons why it might be painful when you pee. Some are related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs, sometimes called STDs), but lots aren’t!

Here are some common not-sex-related reasons it could burn when you pee:

  • Irritation from a soap that you’re using: Switch to basic, scent-free soaps rather than fancy, scented ones and see if the burning goes away!
  • Dehydration: If you’re not drinking enough water, your urine becomes concentrated and can irritate your urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body). Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): These are are much more common in people with vaginas, but anyone can get them! UTIs are usually caused by bacteria getting into the urethra and then the bladder. Even though they’re commonly associated with sex (since sex can introduce bacteria to the urethra), you don’t have to have sex to get a UTI. Some people with vaginas get UTIs from something as simple as wiping from back-to-front instead of front-to-back when they go to the bathroom. Other symptoms of UTIs include constantly feeling like you have to pee, cloudy urine and pain in your pelvic area.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV): BV is a common infection in the vagina, caused by the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your vagina getting out of balance. If you have a vagina, have more vaginal discharge than normal, and the discharge smells fishy, you might have BV.
  • Yeast infection: Everyone has some yeast in their bodies, especially in warm and moist areas like the vagina. If the bacteria that keeps the yeast in check is thrown out of whack, too much yeast might grow. This is when you have a yeast infection. Yeast infections can cause pain when you pee, an itchy or irritated vagina, and white discharge.

Chances are that your pain can be explained by one of the above.

But it’s also worth keeping in mind that sex includes more than penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex. Sex also includes oral sex (blow jobs, giving head, going down on), anal sex, and manual sex (hand jobs, fingering). If you haven’t had PIV sex but you have had other kinds of sex, you’re still at risk for STIs. For example, herpes can be spread through any sexual genital-to-genital contact, even if there isn’t any penetration, and can cause pain when you pee.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider. UTIs and BV are easily treated with antibiotics. Yeast infections can be cured with over the counter antifungal creams, but it’s still a good idea to see a health care provider so you can be sure that’s what you’re dealing with. Many STIs are curable, and every STI is treatable. Remember: having an STI says nothing about who you are as a person.

If you’re 10-22 years old and live near NYC, you can call (212) 423-3000 make a free, confidential appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. We can help you figure out what’s going on and give you the care you need. No judgment, no charge.