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COPD and Sex

9 tips for better sex and intimacy when you have COPD.

3. Rid Your Bedroom of Irritants

COPD symptoms can be aggravated by dust, pet dander, smoke, fragrances, etc. Do all you can to rid the bedroom of these lung irritants.

Dust, vacuum, and wash the sheets regularly. Consider using a HEPA air filter. And watch out for smelly cleaning products -- especially chlorine bleach or ammonia -- as their odors can trigger symptoms.

If scented deodorant or shampoo poses a problem, consider switching to unscented varieties. If excessive mucus secretion causes trouble, keep a box of tissues at the bedside. Nasal irrigation before sex can help, as can using a mucus-loosening vibrating vest.

4. Get a Fan

Recent research has shown that a cool breeze on the face can help ease the distressing shortness of breath that people with COPD often experience during sex. The flow of air can come from an open window or a fan.

“A simple electric fan can really be helpful,” says Goodell. Similarly, keeping the bedroom cool helps keep a buildup of body heat from adding to breathlessness.

5. Take Your Medication Before Sex

The short-acting bronchodilators that many people with COPD use before exercise also help prevent coughing and breathlessness during sexual activity. Doctors recommend taking an anticipatory dose about 15 minutes before sex.

“For most people, two puffs or so is enough,” says Goodell. “It’s really a matter of patients testing the waters and knowing what their responses are.”

To get rid of the unpleasant aftertaste that might distract you or offend your partner, rinse out your mouth with an alcohol-containing mouthwash after using the inhaler.

6. Consider Using Supplemental Oxygen

If you or your partner finds supplemental oxygen helpful at other times, ask the doctor about using it during sexual activity.

“If you need to wear oxygen while walking, you’ll probably need to use it during sex,” says Sandhaus. The doctor might suggest increasing the flow of oxygen during sexual activity -- to accommodate the body’s increased need for oxygen during exertion.

If the partner with COPD doesn’t use supplemental oxygen but wonders if it would help during sex, you can find out with the help of an oximeter, a simple electronic device that the partner with COPD wears on his/her fingertip. If the readout indicates that the oxygen saturation falls below 88%, using supplemental oxygen during sex could prove helpful.

Ask your doctor. He or she might be able to loan you an oximeter. If not, you can buy one for under $50.

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