More than two thirds of asthma sufferers feel their condition is having a negative impact on their sex lives, new research suggests.
A survey by Asthma UK found 68% of people with asthma feel their sex lives have been directly affected by their condition, with almost thee quarters (73%) saying they’ve felt embarrassed about about using their inhaler on a romantic night out.
Nearly half surveyed (46%) said they’d be more sexually confident if they didn’t have asthma, while just under 15% said they felt their asthma had contributed to a relationship ending.
The charity is launching a campaign on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness of how asthma can get in the way of sex and relationships and offer advice on how to enjoy a symptom-free love life.
Although the survey had a relatively small sample size of 544 people, it suggests that asthma may be having a big impact on the 5.4 million people currently receiving treatment for asthma in the UK.
People reported having to use their reliever inhaler during or after sex, with some deciding to reduce the amount of sex they have, or to stop having it altogether.
Several also said they’ve been admitted to hospital because an orgasm triggered an asthma attack, while others reported problems with performing oral sex due to breathing difficulties.
Comments shared in the survey included:
:: “I was dumped in an ambulance once, mid asthma attack, because my boyfriend said I was causing him stress and he couldn’t cope. I ended up going to the hospital alone.”
:: “I stopped having sex with my ex as I was embarrassed about having an asthma attack. It knocked my confidence and self-esteem so much that our relationship eventually broke down.”
:: “I’ve had to use my reliever inhaler during sex, and sometimes I’ve had to stop having sex altogether because my asthma got so bad. I now avoid having sex completely.”
:: “I’ve ended up in hospital because an orgasm set off my asthma.”
:: “Sometimes it’s very difficult to breathe whilst down there (giving oral sex).”
Callie-Anne is one of the 5% of people with asthma in the UK who has severe asthma. It’s a specific type of asthma, where symptoms do not get better even when people take the usual medicines regularly and correctly, and where other causes and triggers for the symptoms have been ruled out as much as possible.
“I always say that 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,” she said.
“Severe asthma can be such a mood killer – I often start wheezing loudly during sex and feel like my chest will explode because I can’t get air out of my lungs.
“So, Lee and I have to stop so I can take my inhaler and catch my breath. This can be really embarrassing and frustrating, and for a long time after I was diagnosed I was too scared to have sex or be intimate. Lee stopped initiating anything and I started to panic that he didn’t fancy me anymore.”
Callie-Anne was diagnosed with asthma before she started dating Lee, but said they had to readjust when she was diagnosed with severe asthma.
“It was about a year after my severe asthma diagnosis that I realised Lee and I couldn’t carry on as we were. Our sex life was on hold and we had been keeping our feelings to ourselves out of fear of burdening each other with more stress. But this was making things worse,” she said.
“So, one day I sat him down and explained how I felt about my severe asthma, and that I was worried he no longer wanted me. He looked at me like I was crazy. He said he was scared to initiate sex because once when he did, it triggered my symptoms and I had an asthma attack. “
She said being honest with one another was a “turning point” in their relationship and now they just joke about Callie-Anne using her nebuliser or inhaler.
“It’s funny to think that while some people take toys into the bedroom, I take inhalers,” she joked.
To help others overcome obstacles relating to their sex lives and asthma, Asthma UK will be hosting a live ‘asthma and relationships’ themed Q&A on social media on Friday 17 February between 12pm and 1.30pm.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP, said: “People with asthma should be able to enjoy a healthy love life without their condition getting in the way.
“However, our survey shows that many people are struggling with asthma symptoms. If you find that sex triggers your asthma, this may indicate that your asthma is not under control and you should seek help from your GP or asthma nurse.
“You can reduce your risk of an asthma attack and ensure your asthma is well-managed by making sure you have a regular asthma review with your GP or asthma nurse, a written asthma action plan and an inhaler check.”