Myth vs Fact

Study: Orgasms are a Natural Nasal Decongestant

October 13, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller

While writing an article on the health effects of sex and masturbation a while back, I came across a paper titled “Ejaculation as a Potential Treatment of Nasal Congestion in Mature Males” that hypothesized a connection between orgasm and nasal decongestion.

The author of that paper argued that an ejaculatory orgasm is likely to have similar effects to taking a nasal decongestant because, like that medication, orgasm temporarily stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and causes vasoconstriction (a narrowing of blood vessels) [1]. It was suggested that orgasm might therefore offer an alternative—and potentially healthier—treatment option for nasal issues because decongestant medications can have unwanted side effects and, if used too long, can actually worsen symptoms.

I always found this idea intriguing because I had noticed something similar in my own life. After an orgasm, I did notice that it was easier to breathe, especially during allergy season. However, my experience was just an anecdote—not data. So I had always wanted to see whether an empirical study would back this idea up. And now one has emerged!

In this study, 36 participants (18 men and 18 women) had their nasal function assessed at five different points in time [2]. Before sex, right after orgasm, 30 minutes after orgasm, one hour after orgasm, and three hours after orgasm.

Participants obtained measures of nasal function themselves in their own homes using a portable medical device. They also provided subjective measurements of nasal function (in other words, could they feel/notice the effect, too?). The study was conducted in 2020—and, presumably, gave people something fun to do during quarantine!

Everyone in the study was in a relationship with another study participant—and at least one-half of each couple was a healthcare worker. The nasal measurements were only obtained during sexual events when both partners orgasmed.

Each participant also provided data on nasal function before and after the use of a nasal decongestant spray as a comparison condition.

Looking at the data, the trends were quite similar for sex with orgasm and use of nasal decongestant at baseline through one hour after use.

In other words, nasal flow was worse prior to both orgasm and spray use, but it improved immediately after and remained better for up to an hour.

However, after three hours, nasal functioning was still improved with the use of the spray, but it had returned to baseline in the orgasm condition.

This is a small study, to be sure. And, unfortunately, they didn’t have a masturbation to orgasm condition, so the results only speak to partnered sex. Although it seems likely that the effects of orgasm on the body would be similar no matter how the orgasm occurred, a follow-up confirmation study would be needed to verify this.

Of course, I also can’t help but wonder if those who experience multiple orgasms get a prolonged benefit, so there’s yet another study we need!

That said, these findings suggest that orgasm is a potential nasal decongestant and that it appears to work just as well as nasal sprays, at least for up to an hour. So for those seeking temporary nasal relief, an orgasm just might help for a bit.

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Image Source: Photo by We-Vibe Toys on Unsplash

[1] Zarrintan, S. (2008). Ejaculation as a potential treatment of nasal congestion in mature males. Medical Hypotheses, 71, 308.

[2] Bulut, O. C., Oladokun, D., Lippert, B. M., & Hohenberger, R. (2021). Can Sex Improve Nasal Function?—An Exploration of the Link Between Sex and Nasal Function. Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, 0145561320981441.


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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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