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Health & Sex

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When You Have Asthma

Compromising sexuality?

What Triggers the Bedroom Attacks?

Increased physical activity during sex may cause the airways to become inflamed, constrict, and even shut down. Chronic shortness of breath may be the reason other asthma patients simply avoid sex. The place where lovemaking typically occurs (the bedroom) may contain asthma triggers for some people, the research team says. "It may be the bedding itself or dust mites in the bedroom," Meyer says. "There's also been discussion of latex-induced asthma."

The latter refers to condoms. Studies of health care providers show that a small percentage have allergic reactions to latex gloves. The same trigger that sets off a skin reaction like hives could set off respiratory problems in others, says Meyer. But due to the lack of formal studies, it's impossible to say for sure.

What You Can Do

Meyer suggests that patients with asthma speak up about any concerns they have about their sex lives if their doctors don't ask. "It shouldn't be painful or embarrassing," he says. "We cannot say asthma is well controlled unless we know it is not impacting the patient's sex life."

If "sexercise" is causing a problem, bronchodilators should be used, if prescribed by a physician. These drugs relax the muscles in the large and small airways, increasing ventilation. They can be taken as pills, liquids, inhalants, or injections, and their optimal effect is felt in about an hour. However, overuse of bronchodilators is dangerous. Check with your physician about the optimal dose and when to take it. Inhaled medications may also be prescribed for daily use for long-term control of asthma.

If the problem is environmental, Meyer says, the agent triggering the attacks should be identified. Is it the sheets, blankets, and pillows? If so, switch to allergy-proof bedding. Talk to your physician or allergist to be sure you are not overlooking some common triggers.

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