Got a problem? Dr Ranj Singh is here to off er his advice


I sometimes take poppers when I have sex, but last time I had a bad reaction and ended up in hospital. The doctors told me that my oxygen levels dropped really low. Could I be allergic to them? Jack, Middlesbro­ugh

Poppers — or amyl nitrates, as they are formally known — were developed as a treatment for angina. However, they have become really popular with men who have sex with men because they help relax the anal sphincter, making it easier to bottom, while bringing on a high which heightens sexual pleasure.

People tend to use them recreation­ally without being aware of the risks. As with all medication, poppers carry potential side eff ects, especially if you take a large dose, or if mixed with other drugs.

Drinking poppers, which appear as liquids and produce a vapour that can be inhaled, are extremely dangerous and have been known to cause death.

Most users don’t experience major problems but when sniff ed poppers can cause things such as headaches, light- headedness and fainting, sickness, loss of balance, and chest pain.

They are particular­ly hazardous for anyone who has an existing heart condition or glaucoma: there have been reports of people losing their sight after using them.

Even though they are commonly used during sex, poppers can actually make it more diff icult to get an erection. In addition, they may reduce your inhibition­s and make you less likely to use protection, increasing the risk of catching, or passing on, an STD.

One rare, but potentiall­y fatal, complicati­on is called methemoglo­binemia. The chemicals contained in poppers can aff ect the haemoglobi­n in your blood cells, which is responsibl­e for carrying oxygen around the body — so because your blood can’t carry oxygen properly, your levels drop and you develop things like breathless­ness, or even lose consciousn­ess.

This must be treated immediatel­y in hospital with oxygen and a specifi c antidote but could still leave you with long- term or permanent damage. It’s likely that this is what happened to you, as opposed to an allergic reaction.

You should avoid using poppers altogether in case something similar happens again. Sure, this is dependent on many factors such as how much you use, but why take the risk?

“Poppers can actually make it more difficult to get an erection”

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