Ten More Things Not To Say To Someone Living With Asthma

Two years ago I wrote a post titled, “Things not to say to someone with asthma.” That post was well received by this community. Many of you commented. You shared your ideas. I collected these ideas. And here they are.

Here are ten more things not to say to asthmatics.

  1. “Stop clearing your throat!!!” It’s funny (well, not funny) that you mention throat clearing. A co-worker and I both have asthma, and we are both constantly clearing our throats. We kind of just joke about it. Once as she was leaving our office, she quipped, “Well, I have to go do some work. When I get back, we can continue clearing our throats together” It’s kind of nice to know that other asthmatics experience the same sort of things. But, it’s not something we can control.
  2. “Are you contagious? This one sort of speaks for itself. No! I am not contagious. We are not contagious. You cannot catch asthma. Nuff said!
  3. “We’ll vacuum the house and put the animals in the other room. You’ll be fine!” Really? Like, that animal wasn’t in that other room before? Animal dander is left behind by your dog. That’s what we’re allergic to. You can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in the air in that room — or in the carpet, or on the bed. A similar one is, “I have a hypoallergenic dog. You should be fine at my house.” Really? If that’s the case, then why do my son’s eyes swell shut when he’s at your house?
  4. “A humidifier will help.” Actually, a humidifier makes the air thicker and harder to inhale. This can often make breathing more difficult. Humidity is good if you have croup, though. But, asthma is not croup.
  5. “But, you’re still coming to work, right?” Ummm. If I can’t breathe, NO!!!
  6. “But, you’re not wheezing!!!” Ummm! It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a wheeze. I’m still short of breath. I’m still coughing my brains out. Besides, many asthmatics don’t wheeze. It’s normal for asthmatics not to wheeze. Some asthmatics wheeze and some don’t. You certainly can’t diagnose on a wheeze alone.
  7. “If you relax you’ll be fine.” Or, “Calm down, it will go away.” Or, “Take a Xanax.” Really? If only it was that easy. If it was all in my head that would be true. But, asthma is not all in your head — it’s in your lungs. It’s a real physical medical condition.
  8. “Your oxygen sats are good, so you’re fine.” I actually heard that once when I woke up after my nose surgery. I asked the anesthesiologist for my rescue inhaler. He said, “You don’t need it. Your sats are fine.” Well, my sats are always fine. This is a classic example of treat the patient, not the number.
  9. “You’re just out of shape!” I wish it was that easy.
  10. You don’t look sick.” So, are you accusing me of lying? So, now I can’t breathe and I have to defend myself. No fair! Asthma is an invisible disease. We may look normal, but we still have it. We may look normal and still feel short of breath. If we had broken legs you’d see the cast. But, you can’t see asthma. You just have to trust me when I say, “I’m having trouble with my asthma today.”

So, these are some of your comments. And, yes, I have experienced all of these too. So, it’s kind of neat how we asthmatics think alike. If you can think of more, please share in the comments below.

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 (18)
  • Eian59
    4 months ago

    When they say you don’t look sick….
    My reply is ….. Well you don’t look like an idiot but there you go lol.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Eian59 and thanks for your post. We understand just how exasperating these inane comments can be to deal with. How does your stated reply work for you? What is the reaction of the person you say it to? All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi Eian59 and thanks for your reply. As long as you feel you have your situation under control, that’s what matters. All of us are dealing with these sorts of people and it sure can be challenging. In our online community, you are never alone! Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Eian59
    3 months ago

    Hi Leon
    I only use that one on people who think they know everything about every illness there is. I don’t even know everything about my asthma,it’s a take one day at a time type of illness i guess and try to control it the best you.

  • saltmom1155
    6 months ago

    Your list is so true. I have heard so many of these phrases and had my course of treatment dictated by so many of these phrases. My favorites are you don’t have asthma you aren’t wheezing and your data are good.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thanks. Glad to hear you enjoyed the article. John. Site Moderator.

  • saltmom1155
    6 months ago

    I can’t tell you how many times I have had oxygen taken away by a particular respiratory therapist because she says “”Your numbers. You don’t need oxygen when the 2 hours before I had been struggling and the nurses had increased it. I always tell them when SHE comes on it will be gone.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi saltmom1155 and I’m sorry this happens to you with a ‘particular’ respiratory therapist. If this occurs while you’re in the hospital, you may want to suggest to your physician to make sure the oxygen order specifies ‘as needed’ (or ‘prn’), based on the patient. That way, the oxygen should be kept in the room and ready to go during your entire admission. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Edies
    7 months ago

    The throat clearing…Sometimes I feel like the mucus is pouring down into my chest. Anyone else have that? My asthma was diagnosed when I was in my 40’s. Any cold I caught tended to progress into bronchitis. I didn’t know I had asthma until one day at work the school nurse saw me struggling and took me into her office. Saying I felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest, to me, was part of bronchitis. My asthma dr calls my place of employment “a petri dish,” but I have to work. ( and I do love my job) Last week, a co-worker who knows I have asthma brought an unapproved cleaning product into our classroom. I walked into a wall of smell from a product I know (and had previously told her) triggers my asthma. I’m still suffering the consequences of her action. I try to not be angry about it because the stress is not good for me, but to say I was annoyed puts it lightly. It was one of the worse attacks I’ve had in awhile. Now I have to take the steroid regiment which means insomnia. Anyone else have that side effect from prednisone? Any suggestions on anything that helps?
    Thank you in advance. I find this site so helpful. Thank you to everyone who contributes.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hi. Edies. Glad you find the site useful. Thank YOU! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s got to be tough working in a ‘petri dish.’ I work in a hospital, so know the feeling. The nice thing about asthma is there are all sorts of treatment options. And asthma can be controlled so you can continue living your life the way you want — in your case, continue on with your job. We cannot diagnose and treat over the Internet, for your own safety of course. But, I think the best course of action is to continue working with your asthma doctor the way you have. And, of course, hopefully, your co-workers will co-operate. As far as side effects, steroids affect all of us a bit differently. But, insomnia is a common one. Steroids have an impact on your adrenal gland. They stimulate a response that makes you feel the same as though you were under stress. They keep you awake and alert and ready to respond to any potential threat. But, really there is no threat. It just keeps you awake at night. So, you are definitely not alone in your insomnia, as many in our community experience the same thing when on that medication (I have experienced it myself in the past as well). So, wishing you all the best. John. Site Moderator.https://asthma.net/living/10-tips-for-obtaining-good-control/

  • mpalicka
    9 months ago

    I think this list applies to me more than the first list did, but I have another one to add: “Jeez, you need new lungs.” I get that from a coworker every single time I am sick. My medication management is impeccable, I avoid triggers as much as possible, and I am very careful with choosing scents I can handle (I can’t handle really perfumy stuff). I’ve even cut out foods that are known to cause acid reflux. Even so, I still have bad days. I’m going on almost 3 months of bouncing around from high to even higher prednisone. I just had a chest X-ray today because all the coughing I’ve been doing is also causing chest pain. I have enough stress and worry over how I’m going to feel 12 hours from now, I seriously don’t need or want ridiculous advice like that. And I’m sure the comment is meant to be sort of in jest, but it’s also in poor taste to someone like me who struggles to breathe so badly that it effects every aspect of my life.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi mpalicka – I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s always difficult when the people who seem to know the least about asthma, have no reservations about making comments to those of us who have the condition. I thought this article, by one of our contributors, Kerri MacKay, might be helpful for you to read: https://asthma.net/living/finding-your-people/. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • ruthieq
    9 months ago

    I never knew anyone else had problems with throat clearing. I get mocked (lovingly) by my family all the time and sometimes by coworkers when I was working. Somehow they never get that we have side effects from the meds we take…

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    We hear you, ruthieq and understand, too! As John has said, we’ve heard from other community members who have expressed similar experiences. This ‘throat clearing’, can also be just that – an asthmatic trying to move the mucus up and out! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    Yes. I get that all the time. And I know of at least 2 other asthmatics have the same thing. I do get picked on at my work to some degree. But, usually, as noted in the article, it’s usually in jest. I hope this isn’t just ’cause I work in a hospital. John. Site Moderator.

  • Katbird
    9 months ago

    I’ll roll down the window in the car if my smoke is bothering you …..

    It’s all in your mind- have you tried.. (yoga, reiki, etc., etc.- a shrink)?

  • Christine.Fitzpatrick moderator
    9 months ago

    Thanks for sharing, @katbird! Two more good ones to add to the list! Unfortunately, I am sure many community members have heard these too. Thanks for being a part of our community! Best, Christine, Asthma.net Team Member

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    My dad used to say that when driving me to school. And even after I’d remind him I have asthma (he spent hours in the hospital with me as a kid), he’d still forget and light up the next morning. I suppose that’s due to the invisible nature of our disease. (https://asthma.net/living/visible-vs-invisible-aspects-of-asthma/). John. Site Moderator.

  • Poll