When sex triggers your asthma symptoms

Having sex can be an asthma trigger, just like any exercise. But, with good management of your symptoms, your sex life will be unaffected.

The thought of having to stop mid-sex to use your inhaler might make you cringe. Wheezing and coughing isn’t the sexiest thing, but luckily your asthma symptoms can be managed so you can still have a sex life.

What should I do if I start having asthma symptoms during sex?

There are steps you can take to relieve your asthma symptoms during sex. It doesn’t have to completely kill the passion.

  • Be honest and say you need to stop for a moment.
  • Use your reliever inhaler. Keep it close by whenever you have sex.
  • 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.

“For most people having safe sex is knowing where the condoms are, but for my husband Lee and I it’s knowing where my reliever inhaler is!” – Callie-Anne 

If your asthma symptoms are regularly triggered by having sex, it might be time to have a chat with your GP for an asthma review.

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...

What should I do if I have an asthma attack during sex?

Firstly, don’t panic. Treat it like any other asthma attack:

  • Sit up straight.
  • Take one puff of your reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds.
  • If you don’t feel better after 10 puffs, call 999.

You can be prepared for asthma attacks by following our advice.

Talking to a partner about asthma and sex

Having sex with a new partner can be awkward enough, but people with asthma tell us it can feel embarrassing to talk about how asthma might affect sex.

Remember, your partner or date will – hopefully – only want the best for you. Either pick a time away from the bedroom, like when you’re having dinner or in the car, or pluck up the courage as you’re about to have sex.

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.”
  • “Hold on, let me just use my inhaler first, just in case.”
  • “Can we try this position instead? It feels more comfortable.”

Once you and your partner know what works best for you, having sex should be fine. Watch our video for more tips about approaching that awkward conversation.

And read our advice on relationships and asthma for more support on talking to your partner.

How can I stop sex triggering my asthma symptoms?

If you’re having asthma symptoms, you might want to try to carry on having sex like nothing is wrong to save embarrassment. After all, sex should make you breathless, right? But this can make things worse. You don’t want a steamy session to end up with a trip to A&E. The better you manage your symptoms, the sooner you can get back to enjoying sex!

Managing your asthma starts long before you get into the bedroom. Making sure you use your preventer inhaler and/or other asthma medicines as prescribed will help keep your symptoms under control all the time.

Your GP may suggest taking one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before sex. If you’re having to do this every time, it’s a sign you might need to have your medicine changed or your inhaler technique improved. It’s best to have an asthma review to check all this.

How can I talk to my GP about sex triggering my asthma?

Sex shouldn’t be embarrassing. Most of us do it! It’s totally normal. And we’re all deserving of a good sex life regardless of our health.

Writing out a list of questions before you speak to your doctor might help you feel more in control. Remember - your GP will have had many conversations more embarrassing than yours. They’re used to it, and they’ll want to help you.

Maybe you could say:

  • “This feels embarrassing to say, but my asthma is affecting my sex life.”
  • “I’m getting breathless during sex, and not in a sexy way.”
  • “My asthma is being triggered by exercise, including in the bedroom…”

What should I ask my GP about asthma and sex?

Asthma UK's in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore gives you some advice on how to manage asthma and your sex life.

Video: What should I ask my GP about asthma and sex?

Asthma UK's in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore gives you some advice on how to manage asthma and your sex life.
Transcript for ‘What should I ask my GP about asthma and sex?’

0:05 If you are getting asthma symptoms

0:07 when you’re having sex, it is probably an indication that your asthma is

0:11 not as well managed as it could be.

0:13 So, it’s either that you’re due for an asthma review

0:17 with your practice nurse or your GP,

0:20 or if your review time is not quite there yet

0:23 then just make a general appointment with your GP to discuss.

0:30 Don’t be embarrassed to call the Helpline

0:32 if you do have a question about sex and relationships.

0:34 We are all qualified nurses

0:36 and we have seen and heard

0:38 quite a lot of things.

Related resources
Written Adult Asthma Action Plan - close-up

Adult action plan

Using an asthma action plan will help you to stay well. Download and fill in with your GP.

Download (675 KB)

Why does sex trigger asthma symptoms?

Sex is like any exercise. It gets your heart pumping and lungs working hard. But it’s not just breathlessness that could trigger your asthma symptoms. Other reasons could be:

  • Your breathing getting quicker or changing (you might start breathing through your mouth)
  • Experiencing big emotions during sex
  • The environment you’re having sex in. For example, being surrounded by perfumed candles, a dusty floor, house dust mites, or the cat staring at you from the corner of the room…
  • Stress can be a trigger, so you end up having asthma symptoms during sex because you’re worrying about having asthma symptoms during sex…

Do I have a latex allergy?

Latex can sometimes be a trigger for asthma. Most condoms contain latex, which people can be allergic to. It can cause redness, irritation and itching. Latex-free condoms are available from most supermarkets and pharmacies. The female condom is latex-free!

Last updated February 2018

Next review due November 2019