SEX can trigger asthma attacks and flare-ups: Doctors urge sufferers to keep an inhaler bedside

Inhalers at the ready: SEX can trigger asthma attacks and flare-ups, doctors find

  • Cases are underreported because people make not make the connection
  • Or they might be too embarrassed to talk to bring up sex with their doctor
  • Researchers claimed allergists are ‘saving marriages’ by highlighting the issue

Sex can trigger asthma attacks and flare-ups in the same way as intense exercise, a study has found.

The researchers say raising awareness about the link between sex and asthma will ‘improve patient’s lives, including their marriages’

Between 40 and 90 per cent of asthma patients have symptoms that can be brought on by exercise, but sufferers are unlikely to think of sex as exercise.

Dr Ariel Leung, lead author of the study and chief internal medicine resident at Saint Agnes Medical Center in California, said: ‘Many people don’t realize that the energy expenditure of sexual activity is about equivalent to walking up two flights of stairs.

She said that reported cases of sex-induced asthma are rare, possibly because those suffering a flare-up will not make the connection.

Exercise is well-known to bring on asthma flare-ups, but mainly people do not realize that this also includes sex


Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS  

The researchers scoured PubMed, a database containing over 34 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature, for different combinations of keywords including sexual intercourse, honeymoon asthma, sexual behavior, allergy and allergic reaction.

They investigated whether case studies on asthma triggers mentioned sex as a possible cause.

Some case studies did, but more reported allergic reactions to semen or latex.

The few studies which mentioned sex might have spurred on asthma attacks noted the underreporting of this condition.

Allergist Dr A.M. Aminian, study co-author, said this could be down to ‘the intimate nature of the subject’.

Disclosure depends on how at ease the patient feels with their healthcare provider and the provider’s awareness of including sexual intercourse in exercise.

She said: ‘People may not be comfortable discussing with their allergist an asthma flare that was caused by sex.

‘But allergists are specialists in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of asthma.

Dr Aminian added: ‘If anyone would be able to guide a patient in how to avoid an asthma flare in the future, it would be their allergist.’

The researchers concluded: ‘Properly investigating all causes of asthma exacerbations, including sexual intercourse… can place allergists in a position of positively improving their patient’s lives, including their marriages.’

Dr Leung recommended ‘patients take their short-acting beta agonist inhaler 30 minutes prior to sexual intercourse to prevent an asthma attack’, UPI reported.

She said: ‘Some patients might think it takes away from the romance, but nothing is more romantic than taking care of yourself and not having your partner observe an asthma attack.’

The findings, under the abstract title ‘How Allergists are Saving Marriages – A Review on Sexual Intercourse Presenting as Exercise-Induced Asthma’, were presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual scientific meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.