Scientists Identify a New Asthma Trigger: Sexual Activity



Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes the airways in the lungs to become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things, such as exercise, allergens, and irritants in the air.

• Is it possible for allergists to help improve marriages by discussing sex as a potential trigger for asthma?

A study recently presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Louisville, KY, suggests that sexual activity may be a previously undiagnosed trigger for asthma attacks in individuals with asthma. People with asthma may not consider sexual activity as a potential cause of asthma flare-ups when thinking about forms of exercise that could trigger their asthma.

“We wanted to investigate whether case studies on asthma exacerbations mentioned sexual activity as a possible cause,” said Ariel Leung, MD, an ACAAI member and lead author of the study. “Many people don’t realize that the energy expenditure of sexual activity is about equivalent to walking up two flights of stairs. Reported cases are infrequent, possibly because those suffering an asthma flare may not realize the trigger.”

The study collected available literature on sexual intercourse as an underdiagnosed trigger for asthma exacerbations. The authors searched the PUBMED database for a variety of keywords including “sexual intercourse OR honeymoon asthma OR sexual behavior AND allergy OR allergic reaction.”

“Another possible cause of underreporting of this condition is the intimate nature of the subject,” says allergist A.M. Aminian, MD, an ACAAI member and co-author of the study. “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. If anyone would be able to guide a patient in how to avoid an asthma flare in the future, it would be their allergist. When sexual activity-induced asthma is properly identified and treated, allergists are better able to improve their patient’s quality of life.”