Top Things NOT to Say to Someone with Asthma

Top Things NOT to Say to Someone with Asthma

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways, causing recurrent episodes of breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Its symptoms can be triggered by a range of environmental, psychological, and dietary factors, making an asthmatic person feel unfit and less confident. Therefore, it’s essential to learn what words to avoid when talking to someone with asthma to prevent exacerbating the mental stress that this condition can bring.

Written by Jude Whitworth Young



1. “It will go away if you relax.”

Or, “Calm down, and you’ll be fine”.

Asthma is a real medical condition. It happens because the respiratory system is obstructed. By telling the person to relax, we subtly imply that the symptoms are just in their head.

During an asthma attack, the airways become narrow due to swelling and excessive mucus production. The cause of this is complex, which means relaxation isn’t enough to make the symptoms go away. And because it’s the airway that’s affected, medical attention should be given right away.


2. “It’s just in your head!”

As mentioned earlier, asthma is real. Unfortunately, many people who have asthma are reluctant to seek medical attention because they don’t want to be accused of imagining this health condition.

To help your family, workplace, and community understand asthma better and learn to support patients with asthma, you may contact Asthma New Zealand.



3. “Do you really need all those meds?”

Individuals with mild to moderate asthma carry an inhaler, some may take long-term medications. For severe conditions, there may be a need to use a nebuliser. Nevertheless, an asthma attack can put their life at risk.

So, don’t question their reasons for needing medications or devices. Instead, express your regard for their preparedness. The same way you’re glad when a loved one wears a helmet before getting on a motorcycle.

Also, try to ask how you can help them in case of an asthma attack.



4. “I know someone who has asthma, and he/she is totally fine...”

There are different types of asthma, and the severity and triggers vary from one person to another. Some asthma patients can engage in strenuous activities, such as running, without experiencing a symptom. Others have more limited capabilities.

Also, understand that some days may be better than others when it comes to physical activities.

If you have asthma and want to achieve self-management and independence, consider taking training and educational resources from Asthma New Zealand. These are also available for health care workers and specialists.


5. “Have you considered natural treatments?”

People with asthma may need pulmonary rehabilitation and long-term medication to ease the symptoms. Dietary changes are also necessary in some cases. 60% of asthma is allergy related.  There is ongoing research for easier and faster measures, but there’s little evidence that supports the efficacy of herbs and supplements in curing or treating asthma.

Instead, acquire more knowledge and equip yourself with asthma emergency skills to support those living with asthma.


With health literacy, quality treatment, and support from the community, we can help people with asthma improve the quality of their life.

Find out how you can help through Asthma New Zealand.


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