Stay well with your asthma on Valentine's Day

Asthma doesn't need to ruin the most romantic day of the year - here we answer your common concerns.

How to talk about sex and asthma

No one wants asthma to interrupt a passionate moment. Avoid the awkwardness, by talking about it before having sex.

Video: How to talk about sex and asthma

No one wants asthma to interrupt a passionate moment. Avoid the awkwardness, by talking about it before having sex.
Transcript for 'How to talk about sex and asthma'

0:04 By the way, I might get a bit breathless during sex

0:07 but not in a good way.

0:09 I thought asthma wasn’t a big deal

0:11 It’s not always a big deal

0:13 but it can be serious if I don’t look after it properly

0:17 I’m worried you’ll have an asthma attack when we have sex now!

0:19 Don’t worry

0:20 It’s very unlikely

0:21 I feel like my asthma is under control

0:23 But, I’ll keep my reliever inhaler on the bedside table

0:25 Just in case

0:27 Shall we start with me on top?

0:30 Sitting up is an asthma-friendly position

0:33 What should I do if you have an asthma attack when we’re having sex?

0:37 Help me sit up straight

0:39 and get my inhaler

0:41 I should be fine after 10 puffs,

0:43 but if not call 999.

0:46 If I get better,

0:47 we could still carry on afterwards

0:48 if we feel like it

0:50 Great, I can totally do that

0:54 Want to have the awkward condom chat now?

0:56 Should be pretty straightforward in comparison...

Whether you’ve just started seeing someone or you're in a long-term relationship, here's how you can enjoy Valentine's Day without asthma symptoms ruining the moment or causing  embarrassment.

I’m worried I’ll get asthma symptoms at a romantic moment 

Both nerves and excitement can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms. This may be because strong emotions can change your breathing patterns. This in turn can lead to symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing.

It’s natural to feel concerned this may happen at just the wrong time – whether that’s when you’re on a first date or having a special night with a long-term partner.

The best way to cut the risk of having symptoms is to make sure your asthma’s well managed. This means taking your preventer medicine exactly as prescribed, using your written asthma action plan, and going for regular asthma reviews.

It’s also important to make sure you always take your reliever inhaler out with you. These steps will help lower the chances of symptoms getting in the way of a hot date.

I’m embarrassed to tell my new boyfriend/girlfriend I have asthma

Some people feel embarrassed letting a new partner know they have a long-term condition. But remember that asthma is common, so it’s very likely they have friends or family members who are affected. It’s unlikely to change the way they see you – it’s probably a far bigger deal to you than it is to them.

You may not feel the need to raise the subject of your asthma on the first few dates. But if you are spending a lot of time with someone, it’s important they know you have asthma and know what to do if you have an asthma attack.

Keep it simple. Explain you have asthma, and tell them how it affects you. You could tell them where you keep your reliever inhaler, in case they ever need to help you get it. And you could also explain all about your written asthma action plan. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with severe asthma, symptoms can be much harder to manage and can get in the way of everyday life – so you might decide talk to your partner about it early on.

I’m concerned that sex will trigger my asthma symptoms

Just like strong emotions, sexual excitement can change your breathing patterns, which could  trigger symptoms. Again, making sure your asthma’s well managed is the best way to stop this happening.

If you do get symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily need to spoil the moment. Make sure you keep your reliever inhaler handy so you can use it quickly and easily. Rest for five minutes. If the symptoms then stop, you can carry on if you want to. Make sure you know what to do if symptoms don’t go away – your written asthma action plan will tell you.

If you’re still worried, discuss your concerns with your GP or asthma nurse. Try not to feel embarrassed – they'll be used to talking about intimate issues and will want to help you. There’s no reason to avoid sex – remember that any form of physical activity is good for your overall health.

People with severe asthma may need some more specific help with sex – have a look at our page on sex and relationships with severe asthma.

My partner is holding back from sex because they’re worried it will give me an asthma attack

It’s great to have a partner who’s aware of potential asthma triggers and wants to support you in managing your condition.

But don’t let their concerns get in the way of your love life. Encourage them to read our page about sex, which explains how to enjoy a full sex life while managing the possible risks. Or you could take them to an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse, where they can talk about their concerns and get reassurance.

And remember, you can call our asthma nurses on 0300 222 5800 (9am - 5pm; Mon - Fri) if you have any worries.

I don’t want to use my reliever inhaler on a date

If you look after your asthma well you're less likely to need to use your reliever inhaler when you’re out and about. 

two thirds people with asthma tell us too embarrassed to use their inhaler on a date

So take your preventer inhaler as prescribed, follow your written asthma action plan and go for regular reviews.

If you do need to use your reliever inhaler, though, remember it’s very likely the person you’re seeing knows other people with asthma. If you need to use your inhaler in front of them, the chances are it won't bother them. If you really feel self-conscious, you could go to the bathroom to use it. 

Other asthma triggers to be aware of on romantic occasions

An open fire can create a romantic atmosphere – but for some people with asthma, it may trigger symptoms. Burning wood gives off fine particles that may irritate the airways. Consider using low lighting, LED or unscented candles instead.

Some people with asthma tell us scented candles, incense sticks and perfume can trigger symptoms. If these are a trigger for you, avoid using them yourself.

It can be awkward telling a date their perfume, aftershave, scented deodorant or body lotion is making you feel unwell. This can be especially difficult if it’s someone you’ve only recently started seeing.

Instead of saying their perfume is triggering symptoms, you could start by explaining that any scent can cause problems for you. This may help to ensure they don’t take it personally. If they’re already wearing perfume or aftershave, try to avoid being in a confined space – if you’re in a car or indoors, opening the windows may help.  

People with asthma often have other allergies, and this may include an allergy to latex, found in condoms. Fortunately, latex-free condoms are widely available so make sure you use these.

If you find certain foods or alcoholic drinks can trigger symptoms, remember to take this into account when you’re choosing a restaurant.

Last updated October 2016

Next review due October 2019