In the spring, everything feels fresh. Unfortunately, that includes the fresh hell that is allergies. They're so annoying, in part, because it can take a day or two for antihistamines to kick in and ease your itchy eyes and stuffed-up nose. Luckily, there may be a natural remedy that works fast: sex. That's right. Some experts say that orgasming may help you get rid of your stuffy nose.
“The relationship between sexual arousal, genitalia, and the nose are intimately linked," explains Michael Benninger, MD, an ear, nose, and throat otolaryngologist at Cleveland Clinic.
When you're aroused, the blood vessels in your genitals dilate and the tissue swells, allowing for increased blood flow. But it turns out, that swelling happens above the belt too — including in the nose. Structures in your nasal passages called turbinates, which help filter the air you breathe, puff up. During sex, though, your body produces adrenaline, which constricts your blood vessels to reduce blood flow again, causing your turbinates to shrink. “Since your nose is getting less blood flow, there’s less inflammation,” Dr. Benninger says. “That means your nose can open up and it’s easier to breathe.”
He says the effects could last for up to two hours after sex. A tip: Consider having sex before bed; the decongestant effect could make it easier for you to drift off, he notes.
You can make the most of this phenomenon with the right position, adds Marc Goldstein, MD, the allergy chief at Pennsylvania Hospital and an allergy advisor at Curist. “If you’re lying down, gravity works against you by pulling congestion back into your nose and worsening symptoms versus standing or sitting.” As such, we recommend standing sex positions such as the “fire hydrant” and the “flame.”
Your body may be working against you, though, acknowledges Dr. Benninger. He says that studies show that people with allergies have lower sex drives and have intercourse less frequently. Nothing kills the mood like congestion, he says. Plus, “people with allergies often don’t sleep as well and experience fatigue, which lessens sex drive,” Dr. Goldstein adds. And if you are taking antihistamines, they can cause vaginal dryness, another big barrier for hay fever hook-ups.
But if more allergy sufferers knew about the temporary relief they could get from lovemaking, maybe they'd grab some lube and do it more often.
Sex doesn't work for everyone and it's not Dr. Benninger's top recommendation for treating allergy symptoms. "I usually recommend beginning allergy treatment with non-sedating antihistamines or an intranasal steroid two to three weeks before their prime allergy season," he says. "The earlier that allergies are treated, the less difficulty people will have during the allergy season."
But it does have its place. For those of us who forgot to plan ahead and take meds early this year, the knowledge that fooling around may help us is certainly good news.