a woman gasps for breath and holds her inhaler as she is surrounded by skeptical faces

5 Reasons Why People Don't Take Asthma Seriously

We recently asked the community what type of content they wanted to see more of on our Facebook page and website. There were a variety of responses (thank you!) and we made sure to keep your input in mind. Something I read frequently in the comments was “I don’t understand why other people don’t take my asthma seriously”. In response to that, I decided to write this article. Here are 5 reasons why people without asthma might not take your asthma seriously.

5 reasons people may not take asthma seriously

1. Lack of awareness

It seems that the main way to learn about asthma is if someone you know has it. If you don't know anyone with asthma, then you probably don't know much about it. I don’t remember learning about asthma in my health education class, but remember learning about diabetes, cancer, and other chronic conditions. It was only until I started dating my partner (who has asthma), did I begin to fully understand asthma.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects about 25 million people in the United States,1 but for some reason, it is less talked about than other chronic conditions. Even if you do know someone with asthma, their asthma is probably totally different than other persons'. On top of that, there are different types of asthma, like allergic asthma or nighttime asthma. Some asthma can be mild, severe or somewhere in the middle. There isn't a way to may a blanket statement about asthma because it is a complex chronic illness.

2. It's an invisible illness

At first glance, it might not "look like there is something wrong with you". Asthma is an invisible illness, meaning it may be impossible to tell if someone has it unless they are currently exhibiting symptoms.

That being said, if you weren’t currently using your inhaler or wheezing/experiencing shortness of breath, someone wouldn't know that you have asthma. With asthma, you can look and feel fine one day, but not be okay the next. For someone who doesn't have asthma, this can be challenging to understand.

3. Stereotypes

Sadly, characters with asthma are represented on screen as out of shape, weak, or unhealthy. This is not true! You, the community members of Asthma.net, have shared that you run, play sports, do Zumba, practice yoga, lift weights, hike, and more! Due to these stereotypes, others may make untrue assumptions about you and your asthma.

It is true that some have exercise-induced asthma, where exercising in particular air conditions (like cold, dry air or humid, warm air) can trigger asthma symptoms. Despite this, it is still possible to be active with exercise-induced asthma. The out-of-shape and unhealthy stereotype is therefore invalid and offensive.

4. "Asthma isn't a big deal"

Some people are not even aware that asthma can be deadly. I believe the idea that asthma is “mild” can be tied to the previously discussed stereotypes. The stereotypical character with asthma uses an inhaler and can’t run, but this character is also never shown in a hospital after an asthma attack. Media and movies don’t expose the reality of severe asthma or how scary an asthma attack can be.

Chances are you may know someone that has passed away from asthma. Heartbreakingly, about 3,500 people die from asthma every year.1 The fact that asthma can cause serious complications or mortality is not commonly known to the general public.

5. Misconceptions

Unfortunately, asthma is misrepresented in mainstream media, in movies, and on the internet. You may have seen a movie where someone is having an asthma attack, and when they are told to “Calm down and breathe”, it magically goes away. Nope! It does not work like that.

There are several popular misconceptions about asthma that float about. Here are just a few :

  • “There is a cure for asthma”
  • "Is asthma contagious?"
  • "You're being dramatic"
  • “Asthma is something you grow out of when you’re an adult”
  • “Asthma is the same for everyone”

All of these statements = untrue. Whether you read this on the internet, or someone said it straight to your face, you’ve probably heard something like this before.

Asthma is serious!

These 5 reasons are just a start, and I’m sure you can think of more reasons why people don’t take asthma seriously. When you are a self-advocate, you start to educate others around you about asthma. It can certainly be exhausting to be the teacher, but know that you are benefiting both yourself and others with asthma when you take the time to share your experiences!

Why do you think other people don't take your asthma seriously? We would love to hear your ideas.

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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.

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