Asthma is the most common disease not caused by an infectious agent. It is estimated that up to 235 million people around the world currently suffer from the disease, but while the symptoms are frequently addressed, there is one aspect that gets very little attention: sex.
Over two-thirds of people with asthma who responded to a survey by the charity Asthma UK admit that their condition directly affects their sex lives. This may seem fairly obvious, but it's a situation that few talk about and could indicate that many people do not have the disease under control, or that they are not seeking the necessary advice to do so.
“It's just not spoken about,” Callie-Anne, an asthma sufferer, told BBC News. “I've been asked how it affects my children, my work, my studying, [and] my social life by many doctors, consultants, healthcare workers and just general people even on the asthma forums. It's very rare anyone asks how it affects my relationship with my husband and no-one would ever ask how it affects the intimate part of our relationship.”
The charity hopes to open up a conversation about sex as a trigger for asthma, discussing how it can lead to an increase in symptoms and how they can be managed in an effective manner. For example, it's not just the act itself that can set off the coughing and wheezing commonly associated with the disease, but the stress of worrying about an impending attack can also be a trigger, as can the heightened emotions experienced during sexual activity.
There are other triggers that people should also be aware of, such as perfumed candles, dust mites, and even latex condoms, as people with asthma also frequently have other allergies. All these can lead to sufferers reaching for their inhaler, which often causes embarrassment and frustration.
In fact, the survey found that around half of the respondents said they would feel more sexually confident if they did not have asthma, with a shocking 15 percent feeling like the condition had been a factor in previous relationships failing.
However, there are ways to manage one's asthma to allow for a more fulfilling sex life. There are steps that can be taken, including trying to shed some of the embarrassment. As the charity recommends, people should remember that asthma is an incredibly common condition and that communication with a partner is key. Knowing your triggers is also vital, and part of this is managing your condition to a better degree.
This could mean a more honest conversation with a healthcare professional. Doctors and nurses are used to such conversations, but if you're still too embarrassed, then there are help lines where anonymous advice can be given.