When sex triggers your asthma symptoms

Looking after your asthma well means you can feel more confident about your sexual relationships.

Find out why sex can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms, what to do if you get symptoms or an asthma attack when you have sex, and how to talk about sex and asthma with your partner and your GP.

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Why does sex trigger asthma symptoms?

The good news is, if you’re managing your asthma well, you can feel more confident about having sex without asthma symptoms getting in the way.

Sex is like exercise - it gets our heartbeat going and we breathe more rapidly. And like exercise, if sex triggers your asthma symptoms – breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, tight chest - it probably means your asthma isn’t as well controlled as it could be.

Watch out for other sex triggers too

  • Heightened emotions like excitement
  • Scented products like perfume, aftershave, scented candles, or oils
  • Indoor triggers like dust, pets, wood burning stoves, or cigarette smoke
  • Latex allergy - latex is used in most condoms and can trigger asthma symptoms if you have a known allergy to it
  • Some sexual positions might make it harder for you to breathe.

What to do if you get asthma symptoms during sex

Don’t be tempted to pretend nothing’s wrong and carry on. As soon as you get asthma symptoms stop what you’re doing and take your reliever inhaler. The last thing you want is for symptoms to build up into an asthma attack.

  1. Tell your partner you need to stop for a moment.
  2. Use your reliever inhaler.
  3. Rest until you feel better.
  4. Once your symptoms have stopped, carry on if you both still want to.
  5. Switch positions. You might find it more comfortable to try positions where your chest isn’t weighed down. For example, both of you could lay on your sides, either facing each other or with one partner behind.

 

Keep your reliever close by

If you feel your asthma symptoms coming on during sex, use your blue reliever inhaler straight away. Make sure it's somewhere you can find it easily if you need to.

What to do if you have an asthma attack during sex

An asthma attack during sex is like any other asthma attack. You need to:

  1. Sit up and try to stay calm.
  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to ten puffs.
  3. If you don’t feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
  4. You can repeat step 2 after 15 minutes if you’re waiting for the ambulance.

Please note if you’re on Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART), make sure your GP has given you specific asthma attack instructions.

“If you need to cover up, ask your partner to help you with something simple like a dressing gown or coat, while you’re waiting for the ambulance - you want to avoid too much fuss and effort when you’re finding it hard to breathe, so try not to worry about getting fully dressed,” says respiratory nurse specialist Caroline. 

How to stop sex triggering asthma symptoms

The best way to stop sex from triggering your asthma symptoms is to make sure you’re managing your asthma well all the time.

This means:

  • Taking your preventer inhaler every day as prescribed, even when you feel well.
  • Using an up-to-date asthma action plan.
  • Being aware of your asthma triggers and doing your best to avoid them.
  • Going for an asthma review at least once a year.
  • Booking to see your GP if you’re using your blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week, or your symptoms are stopping you from getting on with life, whether that’s work, family, or sex.

Talking to a partner about asthma and sex

People with asthma tell us it can feel embarrassing to talk about how their asthma might affect intimacy and sex, especially with a new partner.

But it’s worth taking the time to talk about your asthma openly - much better that your partner knows about your asthma beforehand, rather than trying to explain your symptoms at the time.

Perhaps say:

“So, my asthma can sometimes be triggered by sex. I can manage it, I just wanted to let you know.”

“I’m going to leave my inhaler by the bed in case I need it.”

“Can we try this position instead? It means I can breathe more easily.’

Talking to your GP about sex and asthma

Don’t put off talking to your GP or asthma nurse about sex. The sooner you get support to manage your asthma better, the sooner you can start enjoying sex again without worrying.

“Try not to feel awkward or embarrassed talking about sex triggering your symptoms,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

“We’re used to talking about things you might consider embarrassing. The most important thing is that you’re open and honest with us so we can help you deal with your asthma triggers, whatever they are.”

Video: How to talk about sex and asthma

 

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...

Last updated February 2021

Next review due February 2024

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