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Having Asthma in Public

I've been checking out this forum for a few weeks now in hopes of reading about other people's experiences with asthma. This is a great resource, thanks for creating it.

I know that everyone's asthma manifests itself differently. For me I get an itch in my throat and before I know it I'm coughing and wheezing. My nose starts to run and tears come out of my eyes. Until I can calm things down, talking is out of the question. It seems like one of my biggest triggers is riding the public bus. It could be either the exhaust from traffic, or all the scented products the other riders use. I don't know for sure. It also seems to happen to me a lot at grocery stores. Again, there's a lot of products there with strong scents. Before the pandemic when this would happen to me, if someone noticed, they would show concern for me. Now I seem to get dirty looks, and even sometimes people will move away from me on the bus. If I could talk, I would tell them asthma isn't contagious. I try not to let it get to me, but I find myself less inclined to cough to clear my throat on the bus, when really I should do that before things get worse.

I've been wondering how other asthma sufferers deal with the social stigma of coughing in public in the post pandemic era. What do you do when you have an asthma attack in a public place?

  1. Hello - I'm glad you've found the forum helpful! Connecting with others who share similar experiences is always valuable, especially when dealing with conditions like asthma.


    I'm sorry you've been experiencing some challenges in public spaces. It's unfortunate that misconceptions about asthma still exist. If only people knew that it's not contagious, and a little empathy goes a long way.


    lt's disheartening when people don't understand the nature of the condition and may react negatively. I think the stigma is based on being uninformed and fear - fear of getting a viral disease, fear of losing time at work, thinking you are contagious, etc. - and this fuels the negative public attitude such as moving away and/or avoiding those with a cough or visible in public. I usually pull out my inhaler and take a hit which might give them pause. I certainly hope others get the chance to sound in on this discussion. I am curious about what others do when in this situation.



    I wanted to post this link to an article that may help shed some light - https://asthma.net/living/stigma



    Wishing you well. Rebecca (community moderator)

    1. Hi, welcome! Glad you're here. Your story is relatable to so many, I'm sure. I started working here right at the beginning of the pandemic, and remember very well the stories of people being given dirty looks or even run away from for coughing. We are all human! A few folks even made cards or found t-shirts saying "I'm not sick, I have asthma!" You're not alone.

      I'm curious, do you wear a mask on the bus? I wonder if that would help cut down on your exposure to exhaust fumes, fragrances and other irritants on your ride.

      Thanks for reaching out. Hope to see you around the site. 😀 -Melissa, asthma team

      1. I am glad that you started this discussion, It is a good one and one that many of us -- myself included -- can relate to. I actually had an asthma attack the other evening while lifting heavy bars off a dusty floor while helping my daughter's gymnastics teacher prepare for a meet. I had to stop what I was doing and sit and wait for my breath to come back. And, sadly, just as you describe, I wondered what the other parents that were there helping were thinking of me just sitting while everyone else was working. And, as I'm sitting there, another thought occurs to me: Why is it that we asthmatics worry about what others are thinking? -- when indeed we are doing the right thing by doing what we need to do to breathe. That's another thought to ponder, hey? I find that it's best to do what's right for ME and not worry what other's think -- although, easier said than done. Anyway, the rest of the evening I continued working (although I probably should have left) and paced myself to keep my asthma in check. That' what we asthmatics do, I suppose. Our attempt to be normal. Neat discussion. Hope you are having a good day. John. fellow asthmatic and community moderator.

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