Sexual activity can be an undiagnosed trigger for asthma exacerbations

For a long time exercise has been recognised as a trigger for asthma and such an episode of asthma is termed as exercise induced asthma. But somehow sexual activity is not considered as an exercise-induced trigger, although the estimated energy expenditure of sexual activity is approximately equivalent to walking up two flights of stairs.

Researchers have found in a new study that sex can be an undiagnosed trigger for asthma exacerbations. Therefore proper investigation of all causes of asthma exacerbations, including sexual intercourse, which shares its pathogenesis with exercise-induced asthma, can place allergists in a position of positively improving their patient’s lives, including their marriages.

In the new study, researchers carried out a review of relevant research published on PubMed. They searched the database for a combination of keywords, including sexual intercourse OR honeymoon asthma OR sexual behaviour AND allergy OR allergic reaction.

The new study has been presented at this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in Louisville, KY.

“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.”


Ariel Leung, How Allergists are Saving Marriages-A Review on Sexual Intercourse Presenting as Exercise-Induced Asthma, Annals of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2022.08.635

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