Can Sex Cure Nasal Congestion?

A recent study found evidence to suggest partnered sex may be a natural decongestant

Man in bed blowing nose into tissue
Congested? Bang it out.
Tetra Images

We know sex can have various, occasionally quirky, physical and mental health benefits, from boosting dopamine to helping knock out a hangover. So if an orgasm can set you right after a night of overindulgence, who’s to say sex can’t cure a number if other minor ills and ailments — like, say, a stuffy nose?

Sounds odd, but a recent study found evidence to suggest sex might actually be nature’s decongestant. The team behind the study, which was published in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal earlier this year, recently received an IG Nobel award for their offbeat research, a prize that recognizes unusual scientific study.

Why might someone bother pursuing this kind of research in the first place? According to Insider, the study’s lead researcher Olcay Cem Bulut, a professor and ear, nose, and throat doctor at the SLK Clinics in Germany, was inspired by “self-observation” to study the effects of sex on nasal congestion. After presumably observing the decongestant effects of a good orgasm on his own stuffed-up sinuses, Bulut assembled a team of researchers to determine whether there was any truth to his hunch.

Ultimately, the study — while small and not without its limitations — did produce some evidence to suggest Bulut might be onto something. The team recruited 18 straight couples for the study, who each tested their own nasal function using both a self-rating scale and a nasal flow measuring device before and after sex. Researchers dictated that both partners had to orgasm during a sex session for the data to count, which, as any woman in a heterosexual relationship knows, is a tall order. Participants also measured their nasal flow before and after using a nasal spray, and compared the results. Nasal breathing saw a comparable improvement after both sex and nasal spray for up to an hour, though nasal spray demonstrated more longterm efficacy.

The research didn’t investigate why or how sex unblocks the sinuses, though Bulut told Insider that something in the “combination of sexual arousal, excitement, physical activity and the climax at the end can possibly help to improve nasal breathing.”

More research is needed before your doctor will prescribe sex instead of Flonase, and the team didn’t conduct any research into whether a solo session has the same congestion-busting powers as partnered sex. Still, if you have a willing partner, it seems banging one out may be an easy, inexpensive, over-the-counter option next time you’re feeling stuffed up.

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