Not all smells and itches “down there” are sexually transmitted. It may be hard to tell because they affect the sex organs. These non-sti concerns are infections that can be caused by multiple factors. Even though they aren’t spread just by sex, having safe, clean and lubricated sex can help reduce the risk of infection and reinfection.  

Please Note 
References to “male” and “female” in this article refer the anatomy and sex organs, not gender.  

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTIs are common infections that happen when bacteria, often from the skin or rectum, enter the urethra, and infect the urinary tract. Most UTI’s are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.  

Lower Tract UTIs

Lower tract UTIs affect the urethra and bladder. Symptoms of a lower tract UTI include: 

  • Burning with urination 
  • Increased frequency of urination without passing much urine 
  • Increased urgency of urination 
  • Bloody or cloudy urine 
  • Urine that looks like cola or tea 
  • Urine that has a strong odor 
  • Pelvic pain in females 
  • Rectal pain in males 

Upper Tract UTIs

Upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys. These types of UTIs are rarer than lower tract but are often more severe. 

Symptoms of an upper tract UTI include: 

  • Pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides 
  • Chills 
  • Fever 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is a common condition in females that happens when there is too much of a certain bacterium in the vagina. It results in an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in the vagina. BV can be treated by antibiotics. 


Many people with BV do not have any symptoms. If you do, you may notice: 

  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge 
  • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina 
  • A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex 
  • Burning when peeing 
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina 

Yeast Infection

A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and vulva.  


Yeast infection symptoms can range from mild to moderate, and include: 

  • Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva 
  • A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating 
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva 
  • Vaginal pain and soreness 
  • Vaginal rash 
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance 
  • Watery vaginal discharge 

Causes & Preventions

Although these illnesses are not sexually transmitted, practicing safe sex habits and good hygiene can help reduce the risk of getting these non-sti illnesses.  

Cause: Non-lubricated condoms may increase friction and irritate skin during sexual intercourse.
Prevention: Use lube when hooking up. Lube can help increase the pleasure of sex and the effectiveness of condoms but reducing the risk of breaking. 

Cause: Oral or anal sex followed by penetrative sex can introduce bacteria into the urethra.
Prevention: Wash your parts and toys, and change condoms in between acts.  

Cause: Diaphragms may put pressure on the urethra and can increase risk of bacterial growth and infection if left in for a prolonged amount of time.
Prevention: Make sure to wash hands thoroughly before inserting and remove at least 6 hours after having sex. You should not leave this contraceptive in for more than 24 hours as it could cause toxic shock syndrome. 

Cause: Multiple partners can introduce more bacteria into the vagina.
Prevention: Limit the number of partners. 

Cause: Douching can introduce “harmful” bacteria and remove “good” bacteria from vagina.
Prevention: Not douching. Vaginas are self-cleaning and maintain a good level of bacteria. 

Cause: Tight fitting clothing with limited breathability or prolonged wear of wet clothing (i.e. sweaty clothes or swimsuits).
Prevention: Loose fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics such as cotton underwear and changing out of wet clothes when possible. 

If you are having any symptoms “down there” make sure to make an appointment with Health & Wellness Services by calling 507.457.5160. Only a medical professional will be able to identify if it is an STI or not through laboratory testing.