Patient Blogs | Asthma
How to Explain Asthma to Family and Friends
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For someone with asthma, it can be challenging to navigate certain social situations. It seems we’re independently avoiding things that may bring on an asthma attack. Like cigarette smoke, hayrides, or even participating in athletic events (depending on the form of asthma).

But instead of going it alone, maybe it’s a bit better for us to be open about our triggers with our family and friends. And this might mean we need to have a conversation about our asthma with them.

So, what’s the easiest way to inform family and friends about asthma and its triggers, especially when you’re hoping for compassion?

Here are a few things that have worked for me:

1. Explain How Your Asthma Feel

In an ideal world, every time we talk about asthma, we’d be understood. But the reality of it is, asthma is an invisible disease.

This is because it’s not always obvious. It doesn’t show up like a cut or a limp, for example. And it’s not always present.

Because of this, I’ve found it helpful to explain how it feels to experience an asthma attack, from the trigger to the fear, the full-out attack, and even the treatment and recovery (because let’s face it, treatment is usually a drawn-out, frustrating process).

Now, I’m not trying to scare anyone when I talk about asthma. But I do take a fairly serious tone when sharing my experiences.

2. Share Asthma Triggers With Friends and Family

I’ve found that sharing what triggers my asthma, with family and friends, has encouraged them to keep a watchful eye out for potential problems.

And I’ll take all the help I can get.

For example, I have extended family that smokes regularly. But after explaining my asthma to them (and that one of my biggest triggers is cigarette smoke), they’ve altered their own behavior when I’m around to avoid triggering my asthma. In other words, they don’t smoke around me.

3. Share Asthma Information

For friends and family who aren’t as compassionate (for a lack of a better word), we might resort to sharing scholarly articles with them to help educate.

Unfortunately, asthma is something that is often brushed off (because remember, it’s kind of invisible). But not just because it’s difficult to see; it’s also brushed off because others cry wolf or downplay it.

For example, sometimes, people who haven't been diagnosed with asthma refer to themselves as asthmatics (perhaps they’ve self-diagnosed), and because of this, it’s as if they’re crying wolf for the rest of us.

Pointing to credible information on asthma can help us educate our loved ones on what we’re feeling and the severity (and realness) of the condition.

4. Create a Pamphlet

When I was younger, my mother had a hard time explaining asthma to educators. Now, this was a long time ago … but to get the point across, she put together information from doctors and articles to help spread the word about what to watch for when it comes to asthma triggers and children.

5. Just Be Honest

If you have friends and family that want to help you manage your asthma, be open with them about your triggers.

If you’re comfortable, invite them in on your journey with asthma. Because there’s nothing better than feeling like you have a friend nearby when asthma acts up.

Lastly, if friends and family just don’t seem to understand, there are support groups available online. Connecting with other people with asthma can help you feel connected and supported.





Photo Credit: Manuela / Image Source via Getty Images

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Amanda Pieper

Amanda Pieper

Diagnosed since 1987

Amanda has lived with asthma for 39+ years. She was diagnosed at age 5 and has been an advocate for others with chronic illnesses online and in her community. She owns a small farm in Wisconsin and is a freelance writer at Copy by Amanda Pie and an empowerment coach for people who have asthma. Her passion is helping them feel understood, believed, and empowered to live life without limits.

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