Sex and relationships when you have severe asthma

How to enjoy sex and relationships when you have severe asthma

Health advice > Severe asthma > Making life easier with severe asthma

Find out how severe asthma can sometimes affect your sexual relationships, and how to manage exhaustion, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

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How severe asthma can sometimes affect your sex life

Like other physical activities, sex can make you get out of breath. However, it is still very possible to have a sex life when living with a long-term condition like severe asthma, it may just mean planning ahead and making the most of the times you feel better.

People with severe asthma may feel exhausted, so you may feel too tired for sex. Some people with severe asthma might also feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. This can sometimes include anxiety about symptoms coming on during sex. If you find your asthma is getting in the way of your sex life, you can talk to your GP or specialist.

Managing exhaustion

You may have days when you’re very tired and have to decide how best to use your energy. Sometimes you might feel preparing food or getting dressed is too exhausting. Other times you may be exhausted while recovering from an asthma attack. When you feel like this, it’s not surprising that spending quality time with your partner or having sex can feel too difficult to manage.

If you’re feeling exhausted, you could try:

  • speaking to your partner about why you don’t feel like having sex
  • other ways to be intimate, such as cuddling or watching a film together.

You can try to make the most of time when you feel less exhausted, whether that’s cooking a meal with your partner or making time for sex.

Caring for your mental health

Having a long-term condition like severe asthma can make you feel depressed or anxious. Sometimes feelings like these can get in the way of your relationship, but there are things you can do to help.

I feel like a burden

If your partner is also your carer, you may sometimes feel that you are a burden to them. Lots of people with long-term conditions have this worry. It’s important to talk to your partner about your worries and encourage them to speak about their feelings too.

Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for support. They may be able to take pressure off your partner by helping with things like driving to appointments. Relationship therapy can also help with any strains on your relationship. Find out more about relationship advice from Relate.

I don’t feel confident

Whether you’re in a relationship, or you’re single, having severe asthma might affect your confidence. Some people who take steroid tablets long-term can sometimes experience side effects like weight gain and a puffy face - which might affect your self-esteem.

You can talk to your healthcare professional about how to manage steroid side effects. And if it’s affecting your mood and confidence, you can ask to speak with a counsellor or psychologist to help you feel more positive about the way you look.

I’m worried sex will trigger my symptoms

Physical activity, like sex, can trigger your asthma symptoms. If you’re worried about this happening with a current or new partner, let them know the signs to look out for when your asthma is triggered, and make sure you’ve shared your asthma action plan with them. Your reliever inhaler should also be close by.

Your partner can support you by:

  • finding out positions that use less energy
  • being mindful of the room temperature (not too hot, or too cold)
  • making sure you’re comfortable.

You don’t need to miss out on sex if you have severe asthma, and making sure your asthma is as well managed as possible will give you the best chance of being able to have a good sex life. We have more information on how to manage sex and breathlessness, including advice on positions to help with breathlessness.

Getting help with your sex life

“It’s not easy for anyone to talk about their sex life with their healthcare professional,” says nurse Caroline. “But if you’re having problems, you owe it to yourself and your partner to try to get the right support.”

Symptoms getting in the way?

If your symptoms are getting in the way of your sex life more than usual, this can be a warning sign your asthma isn’t as well managed as it could be.

Talk to a member of your healthcare team as they may be able to offer some simple tips to help. It might feel a bit embarrassing, but just remember they’ve had these kinds of conversations many times before.

Relationship therapy

Sometimes, you might need extra help with the emotional side of your relationship. Relationship therapists work with both single people and couples - even a few sessions can make a big difference to how you deal with negative feelings. They can help you explore the way you feel and suggest practical steps for moving forward. You can find relationship counselling services through the NHS.

You can call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (9am - 5pm; Mon - Fri) to talk to a respiratory nurse specialist for support with managing severe asthma and relationships. Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

Last reviewed: March 2022
Next review due: March 2025

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