Driving with asthma.

Driving with asthma

You may be wondering what driving has to do with asthma. Well, I do too!

I was surprised to see a letter in my mailbox from my state Driver’s License Division.

Laws about asthma and driving?

It had a big red arrow pointing to the “pulmonary” section of medical conditions. The letter said that I had to visit my doctor to have him sign my “Functional Ability Evaluation Medical report form.” And they’re serious about it! If I didn’t return the form within 70 days, they would revoke my driver’s license.

I’m not sure why someone with asthma wouldn’t be able to drive. Asthma Doc had to sign the form and let them know that I use an inhaler for my asthma, but don’t require oxygen. But, if I did need oxygen, does that mean I can’t drive?

I did a quick online search and found an answer on a website for an oxygen company.

They had long “Question and Answer” section, and this was one of the questions:

Q: Can I drive a car or travel while using oxygen?

A:   Yes. Again, all you need to do is use common sense. When driving, secure the oxygen unit so it will not tip or fall. Leave a window slightly open for ventilation. You can also travel on public transportation while using oxygen. When going out, be sure to make reservations early, and communicate your special needs so that restaurants and hotels have enough time to accommodate you.

I have friends with Epilepsy who also have to visit their doctor to fill out the same form that says they can drive. It may vary by state, but in many states, you have to be seizure free for a certain amount of time (3 months, 6 months, etc.)

But I still don’t understand how asthma can impair my driving. Maybe they are worried that I may have an asthma attack while driving and be unable to drive?

Asthma attack behind the wheel?

I have had an asthma attack while driving. On the freeway. At 75 miles per hour.

I had just taught an Open Airways class at my daughter’s school. American Lung Association has created 6 classes that teach the kids how to better manage their asthma. During one of the classes, we teach the kids to belly breath. Shortly afterward, I was on the freeway while my daughter was in the back seat. I started having an asthma attack, and she could see me coughing. She said, “Uh Mom……..belly breathe!” (She said it in that “duh” tone of voice. Gotta love kids!)

I was only about 2 miles away from a freeway exit, so I did some belly breathing until I could safely get off the freeway and pull off to the side of the exit. I quickly found my inhaler in my cluttered purse and used two puffs. And I was fine.

The unpredictability of asthma attacks

Like many people with asthma, I have had asthma attacks in a variety of places – church, work, airplanes, the movie theater, and yes – driving.

You can do your best to avoid your asthma triggers but sometimes you can have an asthma attack and have NO idea what caused it!

Keep your inhaler close at hand – ALWAYS! And ask your doctor what he would want you to do if you have an asthma attack while driving. Be Safe!

Since Asthma Doc signed my form, I can keep driving.

And now, back I can go back to driving my family crazy! Ha! What are moms for?!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    2 years ago

    John, when renewing your driver’s license, you must declare any medical condition that could affect driving. They have several categories (neurological, pulmonary, cardiology, etc). Legally, you have to declare, so medical conditions are flagged. Then periodically, we must be cleared by a doctor to drive. Annoying for me, but meant to protect all drivers from someone experiencing a “medical condition” and causing an accident. I occasionally will hear that on the news, the someone suffered a medical emergency and crashed.

  • NurseKell
    2 years ago

    Never heard any such thing as having to have a doctor sign off on a person with Asthma so they can continue to drive. This has piqued my interest!

  • RitaRe
    2 years ago

    The thing about some states, like Utah, they will send those notifications each year. The doctor can make some type of comment that will make the yearly refiling of these forms unnecessary.

    Hopefully an asthmatic would not require using oxygen, but if so, it can be readdressed in the future.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi. Andrea I’m surprised we don’t hear more frustration about this. If this happened in my state I’d be irate. I would like to see the statistics they used when making the decision to do this. Plus, I wonder how they got around medical privacy laws to find out you have asthma? Well, I suppose you’re kind of open about it, but still…

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