When you tell people you have asthma, some will respond with more tact than others. Although they may mean well, a lot of people just aren’t familiar with the condition and may not know the right things to say.
It’s helpful to have a few responses ready in case someone makes a misinformed or insensitive comment about your condition. It may be tempting to reply to unfavorable remarks with sarcasm or attitude, but it won’t do you any favors. The more you’re able to educate those around you, the less often you’ll hear those disparaging comments.
Here are some common things people say about asthma, and ways you can respond.
1. “Well, I heard on TV that asthma is just in your head. Positive thinking will help. Just don’t think about your breathing so much!”
Response: Actually, asthma is a disease in my lungs, not my head. It can be triggered by stress, but when my symptoms flare-up, I can’t just will them to go away. I wish I could though!
2. “Oh yeah, my friend had asthma. She cured herself with yoga and eating well. You should try that!”
Response: Wow, that’s awesome that yoga worked for your friend! The thing is though, asthma is a medical condition that requires real treatment. There’s no known cure, so to control my symptoms I have to stick with the treatment plan my doctor has given me.
3. “Well, you’ll grow out of it, right?”
Response: With asthma, there are periods of symptom remission, and some people who had asthma as kids may not experience symptoms in adulthood – but that’s not the case for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to follow your doctor’s direction and have an emergency plan in place. You never know when you’ll have an asthma attack!
4. “I know your asthma is triggered by fragrances. I hope this hand cream I’m about to put on doesn’t bother you!”
Response: Actually, it could really affect my breathing if you open that lotion right now. Can it wait until after our meeting? I know dry skin can be painful, so if you need to lotion now, we can also reschedule for another time. Or, you can use some of the unscented lotion I keep in my desk!
5. “Oh, it’s just asthma. It can’t be that bad.”
OK, it’s worth mentioning how frustrating a comment like this is. Asthma is often perceived by others as being a minor condition. You have probably gotten heated in the past when someone has hinted that your asthma is no big deal. It’s a huge deal. And, it can be life-threatening if it’s not treated correctly.
Response: Actually, an asthma attack can be really severe. If I don't stay on top of my treatment, or if I’m not always prepared for an attack, I might be rushed off to a hospital.
When someone isn’t familiar with asthma, the best thing you can do is educate them about it. Doing so is an easy and conducive way to advocate for yourself. You may want to scoff at them or be defensive, but the more you’re able to keep a friendly tone and provide them with helpful information, the more likely they’ll be receptive to you. You hold the key to help raise awareness about asthma.
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
RESP-US-NP-00101 MARCH 2019