A view out a car windshield showing a stop sign with an inhaler on it

Limitations on Driving With Asthma?

Last updated: July 2022

I was annoyed when I opened my mailbox and had a letter from my state’s Driver’s License Division.

I know what you may think – she’s a bad driver, and they are revoking her license!

Nope! I’ve been driving for decades and decades and have never had a speeding ticket. Don’t hate me for that -  I’m just a careful driver and don’t trust other drivers on the road. In fact, when I taught each of my kids to drive, I told them, “Always expect drivers to do the stupidest thing they possibly can because they probably will.”

I knew that the letter was my state, making sure I could still drive with asthma.

Yep, you read that right.

Functional ability evaluation medical report

For some reason, my state has decided that anyone with asthma gets audited every 5 years or so. It repeatedly happens to me and all 3 of my kids (who also have asthma.)

My state has a “Functional Ability Evaluation Medical Report” that requires my doctor’s signature. It is such a hassle! It means taking time off work, driving to another city to see my doctor, having my doctor sign the form and fax it to the Driver’s License Division (and hoping that the fax goes through), and then driving back to work.

When I open my letter, a big red arrow points to the “pulmonary column” on the form. There are other columns on the form that list other health conditions.

I am not sure why the Drivers License Division thinks I cannot drive if I use an inhaler. I have had a few asthma attacks while driving, but I can easily manage them. I always keep my purse on the front passenger seat so it is within easy reach if I need anything.

An asthma attack when driving

My inhaler is easy to find in my purse because I always keep it attached to my spacer. I am very uncoordinated and cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. Using a spacer helps me have correct inhaler technique.

I remember the first time I had an asthma attack while driving. I was on the interstate when I started with the tickle in the throat. Then the cough. I was far from any of the exits, so I had to keep driving.

My daughter was in elementary school at the time and piped up, “Mom! Just belly breathe!”

Oh, right. I had just taught a workshop from American Lung Association in my daughter’s school called "Open Airways." I taught kids about asthma, asthma triggers, what to do during an asthma attack, and when to get help.

I started to belly breathe. I kept my eye on the road while I used one hand to find my inhaler and spacer in my purse. Easy to find! I took a puff, drove a little farther, and took another puff.

My lungs were still cranky but had calmed down enough that I could keep driving.

How does asthma impact your ability to drive?

Am I telling all of you to use your inhaler while you are on the interstate? You know your body best. If you need to pull over or exit the interstate to use your inhaler, do it. But, I do not think using an inhaler should stop us from driving.

Has anyone else had to fill out a Functional Ability Evaluation Medical Report?

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