What Not to Say to Someone With Asthma
Ignoring asthma can be insensitive. When someone is clearly suffering, or you know they’re living with a chronic illness, you want to address it, understand it, and help out if you can. However, chronic illness is a delicate subject, and asthma in particular is more mysterious and complex than you might imagine. And when you try to reach out without understanding the disease, you could wander into some treacherous territory.
Your intentions may be great, but the words you utter can turn a nice discussion into an awkward situation if you’re not careful. Avoid the messy event altogether by leaving these phrases out of your conversation and adopting a more helpful and sensitive set of remarks. Here's what not to say to someone with asthma:
Phrases to Avoid at All Costs
There’s certainly room to express your opinion and concern when you’re speaking with an asthmatic person, but some questions and comments will do more harm than good. In general, assuming you know what they’re going through will end in frustration, hurt, or even anger. Do yourself and your friend a favor and steer clear of these common conversational missteps.
"Maybe You Should Work on Your Fitness"
Although wheezing and coughing after walking up a flight of stairs could point to poor fitness, this is simply not the case for asthma sufferers. Narrow airways make it difficult for oxygen to get in and carbon dioxide to get out, and when that happens your whole cardiovascular system will surely suffer. Suggesting exercise as a solution is not seeing the forest for the trees — that is, you’re focusing too much on the details and ignoring the whole picture.
Plenty of asthmatics are actually very active; some professional athletes have struggled with asthma throughout their lives. However, everyone is different and some people find their activity level changes drastically from day to day, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
In the end, the breathlessness of asthma doesn’t suggest a weak body, but rather a malfunctioning respiratory system. It’s important to remember that distinction.
"You Can Overcome Your Symptoms With Positive Thinking"
The sentiment here isn’t totally misplaced — a positive attitude can definitely make a difference in how you view and experience a physical condition. But a bright outlook will only get you so far, and it’s really no match for the wheezing, inflammation, and dangerously constricted airways of an asthma attack.
Positive thinking is more suitable for finding something positive or rewarding to take from your situation, not for soldiering through the symptoms. Simply visualizing your airways opening is just not enough to override the physiological event that’s happening in your body.
“You'll Develop a Tolerance If You Use Your Inhaler Too Much”
There’s a general consensus that taking too much medicine is bad for you, and in some cases, that’s absolutely true. Taking antibiotics every time you come down with a cold can eventually destroy your natural defenses, and overdoing it on pain meds can lead to a dangerous and unhealthy addiction. However, when it comes to both maintenance and rescue medication for asthma, a daily inhaler habit is not only OK, it’s often the healthiest way forward.