[Question #336] HPV

35 months ago
I am a single mom of 6 year old twins. I am letting HPV ruin my life because I am afraid I will some how give it to my children just by doing normal things in my life. I am scared. I was told I had HPV in 2013. When I went back to doctor in 2015 she said there was no detection of it. Every once in awhile I do not believe it so I let it take over.  I am afraid if I take off my  jeans and touch the inside that were next to my underwear i will give it to them.  I am not a crazy person, I am very concerned I will hurt my children.  If I pee on the seat I worry. I am letting this take over and I am missing out on my kids growing up.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
35 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

For sure you are not "crazy", and I understand your main concern is the natural maternal instinct to protect your kids from harm. Nevertheless, your fears have no scientific basis -- and I have a suspicion you know this, intellectually if not emotionally. I will explain some of the science behind lack of risk to your kids -- but if your fears persist thereafter, you may need to address the potential emotional and psychological reasons for your irrational fears.

First, your HPV indeed probably is gone. Almost all HPV infections are cleared by the immune system within 1-2 years, so it is unlikely you still have an active, transmissible HPV infection from 2013.  Second, even if you had it, there would be no risk to your kids. The genital (sexually transmitted) HPV types are simply not transmitted except by sex. Even after years of sharing bathrooms, kitchens, towels, eating utensils, and living the the same household with infected persons, nobody in those households catches HPV (except in cases of sexual contact or abuse). There is simply no risk to your kids from urine on the toilet seat, or by touching them after your hands have been in contact with your underwear or genital area.

I hope this information helps reassure you. However, if you remain worried, speak with your physician about it, with an eye toward possible professional counseling. Your closing sentence shows this is truly a serious problem for you. I suggest it from compassion, not criticism.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD


---
35 months ago
Thank you Dr.  Months ago I really let it get to me.  I got it out of my head for quite some time. I was told I had the High Risk #16. I have been seeing an amazing man for some time now and he knew I had it and he was not worried about it. I have just one more question.  I just worry too about my kids crawling in my bed after I have sex. Is that possible. I know you mentioned scientific basis. I am a smart person. I have learned alot dealing with and coping. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
35 months ago
Thanks for the additional reassuring info. In return, here's some more "scientific basis".

STDs, including HPV, are not simply infections that happen to involve the genital area. The bacteria and viruses that cause them evolved that way because they cannot be transmitted by easier routes, such as simple touching or superficial contact. For those transmitted skin-to-skin (HPV, herpes, syphilis), they must be massaged into susceptible tissues or have prolonged contact. That's why genital warts and herpes generally first show up at points of maximum friction during sex (penis, vaginal opening, labia minor) and uncommonly on nearby surfaces like labia major, pubic area, or scrotum -- even though sexual fluids almost always come into contact with those areas during sexual activity. (Fluids tend to be smeared all over the place, right?) But infections only take hold in the more intensely exposed spots. Biologically, this is exactly why these infections are STDs and not transmitted by more casual exposure. It's also the main reason your kids are not at risk in the household, and why even crawling into bed with you -- even if that happened soon after sex -- carries no significant risk for them becoming infected.

Is the risk to household contacts zero? Probably not -- there are few absolutes in biology and medicine, and the rare patient shows up with genital HPV despite apparently honest stories of no possible sexual exposures, so rare HPV infections may be acquired nonsexually. OTOH, STDs simply are not seen in kids and household contacts of infected people, so any risk there is extremely small. Common sense hygiene is, well, common sense -- and I would recommend hand washing after toilet (duh) and probably against your kids hopping into bed with you when the sheets are moist with sexual fluids. But even that is mostly to prevent colds, diarrheal disease, and common skin infections (staph, strep, etc), not STDs.

On top of all that, also remember my opening comment:  It is unlikely you still are infected with the HPV you had two years earlier.


---
35 months ago
Hi Doctor, you have definitely given me alot to think about and digest. You have helped me so much.  Now it is time for me to take your information and move on with my life.  I have amazing children and a great guy.  At 43 I did not think I would ever have something like this.  This is my last post to you so I want to make it count. I am a smart person.  What I got from this is that I should continue on with my sex life and not become a nun. I worried if I had sex that even the dried up liquid would be on me and they would get it. Still unsure how long it lasts outside the body(never read the internet). Pee on a toilet seat does no harm. (Except gives a wet butt). Sometimes I get rushed out of the bathroom because of screaming kids so I doubt that I wash my hands.  All I am is a concerned mom who never wants her kids to come into harm. I am not a scientist so I don't know the ins and out or how's of this who things. Any last minute words of encouragement would help.  Thank you again. 
35 months ago
One more thing.  Do you beat that strand and does it go away completely. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
35 months ago
You correctly understand everything; yestereday's comment is a nice summary. I would emphasize that although hygiene in the home makes sense, it probably makes little or no difference in regard to HPV. The chance of transmission by any contact other than sex is too low to worry about, either for your kids or anyone else.

And you need to look at genital HPV as normal, just part of being a sexually active human being, both for yourself and your twins. It is unavoidable. Your kids will get it someday once they become sexually active, but until then they are not at risk. They should be vaccinated when they come of the recommended age (9-11 years old), which will prevent infection with the 9 HPV types that can cause the most trouble, making it likely they won't go through experiences like you have had since your abnormal pap smear.

As I said above, your immune system will suppress your infection, i.e. yes, you will "beat this strain". HPV DNA sometimes persists for life, with a potential to reactivate in future years. That may be what resulted in your abnormal pap. A new HPV 16 infection would be uncommon at age ~40; it's likely you were infected many years earlier. However, future recurrences remain rare, and the chance you'll ever have further trouble from it is very low. Follow your doctor's advice about follow-up exams and pap smears, but otherwise please do your best not to worry about this.

That completes the permitted two follow up comments and replies, and closes this thread. You can go forward with no worries about your health or your kids' on account of your HPV infection. It's a done deal! Best wishes.

---