Allergy News: Sex as Asthma Trigger; Schools and Stock Inhalers

in Asthma, News
Published: November 12, 2022
Photo: Getty

Heavy Breathing During Sex? Might Be Asthma

If you’re feeling breathless during sex, hope that it’s because you’re feeling amorous, and not because you’re having an asthma attack. Like other forms of exercise, sexual intercourse can trigger asthma symptoms, a new study finds.

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

For those with exercise-induced asthma, the exertion of sexual activity may be enough to trigger symptoms. These include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. An estimated 40 percent to 90 percent of people with asthma have exercise-induced symptoms, Leung notes.  

Leung and her colleagues searched the medical literature for articles on sex, asthma and allergies, using keywords such as “honeymoon asthma/rhinitis.” (Honeymoon rhinitis is a condition in which a person feels suddenly stuffy and congested during sex.)

They found several reports on allergic reactions to semen as well as contact allergy to latex condoms. But they found few reported cases of sex-induced asthma attacks. This is “possibly because those suffering an asthma flare may not realize the trigger,” researchers say.  

Sex and Asthma: Allergists Can Help

Or, people may not feel comfortable bringing up their love lives to their doctor. “Another possible cause of underreporting of this condition is the intimate nature of the subject,” says Dr. A.M. Aminian, an allergist-immunologist in Fresno and a study co-author.

Aminian urges people who suspect that getting frisky triggers asthma discuss it with an allergist. The specialist may be able to help avoid it in the future. (The wheezing, not the sex.)

“When sexual activity-induced asthma is properly identified and treated, allergists are better able to improve their patient’s quality of life,” he says. With exercise-induced asthma, often called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, the most common intervention is to have two puffs of an albuterol inhaler five to 20 minutes ahead of exertion.

Researchers urged allergists to not shy away from discussing such matters, “in order to extend and improve their patient’s well-being, and possibly even marriage.”

The study called “How Allergists are Saving Marriages: A Review on Sexual Intercourse Presenting as Exercise-Induced Asthma,” was presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) scientific meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

Stock Asthma Inhalers at School: Lawsuit Fears

Even in states that provide legal protection for “stock albuterol,” school administrators are having difficulty obtaining prescriptions, often due to doctors’ fears of lawsuits.

The study is based on interviews with 20 school administrators, school nurses and physicians in Illinois. It’s one of 17 U.S. states that have laws or guidelines that allow schools to stock albuterol inhalers for use in any child having respiratory symptoms.

About 35 percent of the school staff interviewed said they faced difficulty obtaining prescriptions for stock inhalers, according to the research presented at the ACAAI conference. About 20 percent said liability concerns were one reason for being unable to get a prescription.

“Even though Illinois has strong wording to protect prescribers of stock inhalers and those who administer stock inhalers, prescribers are still cautious of providing a prescription for stock inhalers and related supplies to school districts,” says Dr. Andrea Pappalardo, lead study author.

Some doctors expressed reluctance to prescribe because they weren’t sure their malpractice insurance would cover it, she told Allergic Living. Pappalardo is an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.   

About 6 million U.S. children have asthma, according to the CDC. As well, half of children with asthma had at least one attack in the previous year. The condition disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic children.

Inhaler Access ‘Critical’ at School

But kids don’t necessarily always carry their “rescue” inhaler, or they may not have one because of health-care access issues. Other children who have an asthma attack may never have been diagnosed, and aren’t aware that they have the condition.

Rescue inhalers contain a medication such as albuterol. The drug can provide quick relief from asthma symptoms by relaxing the smooth muscles in the airway that become constricted during an asthma attack.

Pappalardo recommends more education for doctors and school staff on the importance of having stock inhalers for children experiencing an asthma attack, and to put to rest their liability concerns. A recent review of stock inhaler laws determined that liability is “an extremely unlikely occurrence.”

Schools are where children spend most of their day, she adds. “Having potentially life-saving medications for asthma emergencies and daily symptoms alike is critical to keeping our children in class where they belong.”

Schools that were able to obtain a stock inhaler were able to identify a doctor to write a prescription, had “champions” who supported it, and funding from their state or school district, the study found.

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