We have all heard stories about how hot tubs, too tight briefs and heat, in general, can negatively impact sperm counts. While briefs are indeed fine (really, they are) and FREQUENT hot tub use CAN be a risk factor for decreased sperm counts, FEVER is a sign of infection, and certain infections can damage sperm.
INFECTIONS: To explain…it is not a fever that generally puts sperm at risk as much as it is the effect of the infection itself.
- BACTERIAL INFECTIONS: A fever is not always present with gonorrhea or chlamydia infections. But both bacteria can cause an infection in the testicle(s) (orchitis) that can result in direct damage to the sperm cells and stem cells that make sperm. Other bacteria that cause systemic infection can result in a temporarily disruption of spermatogenesis as the body works to focus its efforts on fighting off the infection.
- VIRAL INFECTIONS: It is widely known that viral infections such as mumps cause infertility. The damage happens directly (cell death, reduced blood flow to the testicle) or indirectly (through the body’s immune response to the infection which can harm native sperm stem cells). Specifically, in the case of mumps orchitis, the virus has direct destructive effects on the Leydig cells early in the disease and more permanent damage to the cell’s secretory function later in the disease process.
TREATMENT: Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, but not viral infections like mumps. Even if antibiotics are used to treat a bacterial infection it can still take up to 2-3 months before native sperm cells can recover and generate new sperm (spermatogenesis). And, as a result of the initial infection (treated or not treated), permanent damage to sperm production (spermatogenesis) may have already occurred, resulting in a permanently lower sperm count and/or poor motility.
The presence of white blood cells (WBC) in the semen can indicate an infection in the testicle(s) that could be treated/cured by taking antibiotics. My advice would be to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about a genital tract infection or other infection and what, if any, risk it might have on your reproductive future.