How Asthma Can Affect Your Sex Life

Couple holding hands in bed.
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Sex is an important part of healthy relationships and overall well-being for many people. But, what happens when sex gets in the way and makes your asthma symptoms worse?

Your doctor probably asks you questions at every visit to assess the control of your asthma symptoms. However, doctors aren't always so good about asking patients if asthma symptoms are affecting their sex life.

Impacts of Asthma on Sex

In the Reducing Emergency Asthma Care in Harlem Project, researchers examined the impact asthma has on sex life. Of 356 asthmatics who went to the emergency room for asthma care:

  • 80 percent participated in sexual activity in the two weeks prior to their emergency room visit
  • 60 percent reported some limitations in their sex life
  • Sex was the 15th most common asthma limitation reported
  • Sexual impairment was the third most important limitation reported by the patients after​ their ability to climb stairs and the ability to do housework.

Sexual activity can set off your asthma in several ways:

  • "Sexercise-induced" asthma: These are asthma episodes that cannot be attributed to any other activity other than sexual excitement. Many of these patients and their partners have significant anxiety and apprehension. Some asthmatics may experience symptoms at the beginning of intimate contact that prevents completion of sex, while others may experience asthma symptoms four to six hours after sex. This is not considered a variant of exercise-induced asthma because drops in peak flows are not seen with exercise, but are seen with sexual activity. This form of asthma and sex can be treated by taking medications before sex or may be a sign that your asthma is poorly controlled and you need more treatment.
  • Human seminal plasma allergy: Most commonly occurring in women, these asthmatics develop hypersensitivity reaction and thus patients develop an allergy to their partners' semen.
  • Condom-induced asthma: In this condition, patients develop symptoms related to a latex allergy from condom use.
  • First time sex: Experiencing sex for the first time can possibly trigger asthma or exacerbate pre-existing asthma. Because sex can be an intense emotional experience, sex can lead to a significant production of stimuli that trigger an immune system response through the production of mast cells and basophils.

    If asthma is taking a toll on your sex life, make sure you:

    • Talk to your doctor. It can be hard, but a little preparation can help you bring up this topic.
    • Treat sex like any other trigger. Aside from the part about avoiding triggers, you can identify and treat asthma symptoms related to sex like another trigger.
    • Explore the idea of medication. As with asthma in general, if your symptoms are poorly controlled you may need additional medication or take specific actions before sex to prevent symptoms.
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    Article Sources

    • Ashok S. Asthma and Sex. The Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences. Volume 43. pp135-137.

    • Lee-Wong L, Collins JS, Nozad C, Resnick DJ. Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity. Obstetrics and Gynecology. Volume 111(2, Part 2), 2008; pp 538-539.
    • Meyer I, Sternfels P, Fagan JK, Ford JG. Asthma-Related Limitations in Sexual Functioning: An Important but Neglected Area of Quality of Life. American Journal of Public Health. Volume 92 pp770-772.