military soldier tying up a boot with an inhaler and water bottle next to them

Can I Join the Military with Asthma?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. military currently has 1.3 million active-duty personnel - less than 1 percent of the population.1 With each branch of the military aiming to recruit thousands of new volunteers to serve each year, it’s a common question for search engines and doctors alike - “can I join the military with asthma?”

Military Medical Standards

Each branch of the military has its own standards for physical health, including specifications regarding:2

    • Vision
    • Height/weight ratio
    • Hearing
    • Tattoos, brands, and body modifications
    • Physical fitness

Potential military recruits who have medical issues in any of these areas may be disqualified for service unless the condition qualifies for a medical waiver. Due to the fitness component of the military and the general rigorousness of active service, the military also has guidelines around respiratory conditions including asthma.2

Respiratory Disqualifications for the Military

Regardless of the branch of military you are applying for, you will have to disclose your asthma history in the medical screening process. In the “Respiratory System Disqualification” section of its website, the Air Force states:2

“A history of recurrent bronchospasm for any reason, including asthma, reactive airway disease and exercise-induced bronchospasm, that bronchospasm, which was reliably diagnosed and treated beyond age 13, is disqualifying for entry to military service and entry to service academies. Waivers may be possible, but only if convincing evidence suggests that a diagnosis was erroneous or that the condition has credibly resolved. Ongoing use of medication to treat or prevent bronchospasm does not convey resolution of such a condition and will result in waiver denial.”

The Army and Navy have similar asthma policies. The Coast Guard states in its policy that as of 2019, taking any asthma medications is seen as a disqualifier and a spirometer test and doctor’s consultation will be necessary. The Marines also require a pulmonary function test and a doctor’s consultation.3

Can I Join the Military with Asthma?

Due to the strenuous nature of military jobs, asthma is taken very seriously by each branch of the military. If potential enlistees have active asthma that requires treatment beyond age 13, there’s a high probability that they will be disqualified. However, asthmatics that were diagnosed with asthma at a young age but who do not have active asthma or require medications may be able to enlist after successfully completing a pulmonary function test and being cleared by a doctor. Asthmatics who have or were diagnosed past the age of 13 may still be able to receive a waiver to serve on a case-by-case basis.3

Share your experience

Has it ever crossed your mind that you may want to serve your country as a member of the military? Were you not sure if you would qualify because of your asthma? Hopefully, this article helped to clear up some of the questions regarding disqualifiers when it comes to different branches of the military. If you have an experience you'd like to share, please leave a comment below.

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