By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Jan 19, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Can menthol cough drops be used during oral sex?." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 19 Jan. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/can-menthol-cough-drops-be-used-during-oral-sex. Accessed 12, Jun. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, January 19). Can menthol cough drops be used during oral sex?. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/can-menthol-cough-drops-be-used-during-oral-sex.

Dear Alice,

I've been thinking of different things I can do to please my girlfriend when we hook up, and one thing that's come to mind is while administering cunnilingus, maybe I could suck on a menthol cough drop. I think that would feel pretty cool. Is that safe? Is that abnormal?

Tickler

Dear Tickler, 

There’s nothing unusual about exploring new experiences in your sexual relationship. In fact, sexual fantasies can be a common and natural part of intimacy that helps boost arousal and sexual confidence. As for your question about menthol cough drops, there are a few safety concerns related to skin sensitivity to consider. Read on for additional information. 

It can be helpful to keep in mind that not every new fantasy idea or scenario will feel safe or enjoyable to one or both of you. That said, open communication throughout the entire process (that is, before, during, and after) can lead to greater feelings of intimacy and a strengthened relationship. Having these conversations can also help you avoid or prepare for any challenges that might happen. 

Before introducing a new element into your sex life, it can be important to determine whether this is something both you and your girlfriend want, and that your girlfriend consents to being a participant. Having this discussion can help you both set boundaries and establish ground rules. Some questions you may ask to help establish these boundaries could include: What do each of you want to get out of this experience? What are your expectations? How do each of you feel about this activity? Are there any concerns? If so, is there anything that can be done to address these concerns? What safety precautions can be taken, if any? What safe word can be used if somebody wants to stop the activity? 

When it comes to menthol, it chemically triggers cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, creating that cooling sensation when eaten, topically applied, or inhaled. While menthol can be a good way to spice things up, it’s recommended that it be used cautiously, as it may lead to: 

  • Discomfort or pain. The clitoris has a higher concentration of nerve endings than any other part of the human body—twice as much as the head of the penis. Too much menthol on the clitoris might cause an uncomfortable burning sensation. 
  • Allergic reactions or skin irritations. Exposure to menthol may cause allergic reactions or skin irritations for those with sensitive skin. 
  • Menthol poisoning. Cough drops typically contain about five to ten milligrams (mg) of menthol per drop. While reaching a fatal dose—up to 1000 mg depending on body weight—in a short amount of time is unlikely, these toxic effects are still possible. Symptoms of menthol poisoning can include heartburn, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle weakness, decreased cognitive function, seizures, skin lesions, and sores in the mouth. 
  • Benzocaine toxicity or methemoglobinemia. Some cough drops contain benzocaine, which may have an anesthetic effect. Small amounts of benzocaine are generally safe for most individuals. However, application of larger amounts or prolonged use of the product may lead to toxicity as it spreads through the bloodstream to the organs. Symptoms of toxicity can include shortness of breath, headaches, seizures, heart problems, and blue skin due to a lack of oxygen. In rare cases, methemoglobinemia—can also occur as a result of ingesting large amounts of benzocaine. 
  • Reduced sensitivity. Although studies on this topic are limited, prolonged use of anesthetics may lead to reduced sensitivity over time, which would be the opposite of its desired effect! 
  • Yeast infections. Cough drops often have a high sugar content, which may increase the risk of yeast infections. Elevated sugar levels create a nutrient-rich environment in which yeast like candida albicans that naturally exist in and around the vulva to thrive and reproduce at faster rates. Therefore, if you do choose to go the cough drop route, you might want to try choosing a low-sugar product! 

While many of these complications are rare and therefore unlikely, it can be helpful to keep these in mind, especially if you intend to use menthol cough drops repeatedly. Additionally, while there are specific products that intend to reproduce this same effect, such as oral sex mints or cooling lube, it’s recommended that you check the ingredients label as they may still contain menthol, benzocaine, or derivatives of menthol. 

To ensure your safety, you may consider speaking with a health care provider before using any new ingredients, especially in your genital region. If you want to check for allergies or sensitivities, you can try testing a small amount of the product on the skin of your arm or leg first to see if a reaction develops. For other alternatives that can also produce a cooling or tingling sensation, you can try using ice cubes or a minty dental dam. 

Best of luck staying minty-cool while things heat up in the bedroom! 

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