Living with Asthma

The Stigma Attached to Asthma

Almost everyone who grew up with other children knew someone who had asthma. In fact, it's a disease that's much more prevalent than most would guess – more than 20 million people in the United States have asthma, and more than 6 million of them are children. This statistical reality offers both positive and negative consequences.

On the positive side of the ledger, most asthma patients know someone else who suffers from the same condition. Obviously, it's always easier to deal with something like this when there are others out there working through the same problems and challenges. In terms of the negative consequences, the prevalence of asthma will make it seem to many, particularly children, that it's not a serious disease and is indicative of some sort of weakness on the part of the person who suffers from it.


This is what leads to the stigma that's attached to asthma. It's unfortunate, but almost anyone who has asthma will tell you that it's real. Stigmas almost always stem from a lack of understanding and sometimes a lack of compassion or interest in learning. However, that doesn't mean that this stigma can't be overcome. Below are a few ideas to help deal with the stigma attached to asthma.

  1. Pass ignorance off as humor – Humor lightens any situation, and when someone says or does something inappropriate, there will be people who sense it as such. Rather than blow the situation out of proportion, have a few witty responses ready to remove the heaviness in the room and simultaneously alert the person who said something he or she shouldn't have that it shouldn't be said again.
  2. Use improper statements/actions to your benefit – Some people are simply crushed when they are wrongly labeled as 'weak' or 'sickly.' The fact is that there are people out there who will believe these ignorant things, regardless of how wrong you think it is. Therefore, you can either let it affect you negatively or turn it to your advantage - prove those who don't believe in your ability to function normally wrong by doing just that.
  3. Don't be embarrassed – Anyone who's seen as 'different' in any way will feel out of place more often than others. Remember that millions of people have the same disease, and several million have overcome the daily challenges that are part of asthma. Do not be ashamed of your condition – it's clearly not by choice and not your fault, so if someone asks you 'what's wrong,' answer directly and with confidence.

Obviously, there is no cure-all for dealing with the stigma attached to asthma. As long as you are able to remember a few basic things and to never lose faith in yourself, that stigma will not become an overwhelming part of your life.