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Woman with asthma tired of insensitive comments being comforted by her friend on park bench

4 Things People with Asthma are Tired of Hearing

Reading time | 2 mins
Kerri Mackay shares her four tips on dealing with unsolicited advice about asthma from peers.


It can be frustrating to get unsolicited advice regarding a medical condition if it comes from someone unqualified to give it.

You've likely experienced this many times if you're living with asthma. Though people usually mean well, they may not be educated about your condition. Besides being irritating, it can be misinformed or even hazardous to your health.

Whether it’s coming from a family member, friend, or someone you’ve just met, the following comments are things people with asthma are tired of hearing from others. Here are a few tips on how to reply.

1. “Oh, asthma is just in your head!”

Some people may believe that asthma results from a psychological condition, but that is not true. Anxiety and stress can worsen your symptoms, but they're not the cause. Asthma is a real medical condition.

How I respond:

“Actually, it’s in my lungs!” If people aren’t educated about asthma, I help them to learn. I often say something like, “Asthma is a lung condition. It causes my airways to become swollen and constrict in response to certain triggers that people without asthma don’t react to.” I name a few triggers and tell them how I manage my symptoms.

2. “Maybe you’re just anxious?”

Asthma and anxiety are entirely different conditions. While someone with asthma may also have anxiety, and while there may be some connections between the two, one is not caused by the other.

How I respond:

Of course, if you’re having trouble breathing, you might feel anxious too. I try to express that without being curt by letting them know how constricting it can feel to live in constant fear of another asthma attack. I might try something like, “Well, I do feel anxious, but that is because asthma is a medical condition that causes trouble breathing. It’s like my lungs don’t work properly, and that is a scary feeling.”

3. “Oh, I knew someone with asthma. They were hospitalized a few times because of their condition.”

If someone is living with asthma, the last thing they want to hear is negativity. Hearing stories about someone who had a terrible experience because of their asthma will likely scare them. They’re probably trying as hard as they can to have a positive outlook.

How I respond:

"I'm sorry to hear about your friend's asthma. That's why I need to stay on track with my treatment and visit my doctor regularly. The good news is that there are many ways to manage asthma these days. Many people with the condition can live pretty normal lives."

4. “I read about natural treatment for asthma online. Have you tried any alternative therapies?”

I have a hard time with questions like this. While some people may experience relief from their symptoms through alternative treatment, personally, it’s not for me.

How I respond:

Suppose you're like me and aren't interested in exploring the world of alternative medicine to help with your asthma. In that case, you can say something like, "Thanks for sharing that with me. For now, I'm going to trust my doctor to point me in the right direction."

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

NPS-ALL-NP-00829 MARCH 2023