Is Asthma a Disability?

In this article...
  • Learn if the chronic health condition asthma is considered a disability in the United States and what this means for you and your right to benefit payments.

Is Asthma a Disability?

Asthma is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, impacting the lives of around 25 million people

Asthma is a respiratory condition with no cure, and its symptoms can dramatically affect someone’s daily life. If you struggle with the symptoms of this chronic condition, you may wonder whether asthma is considered a disability in the United States.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult. It causes the airways to become narrow and inflamed, making it more difficult for air to pass to and from the lungs. 

Additionally, the airways produce excessive amounts of mucus, which then makes breathing even more challenging. 

Asthma can cause the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • A feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

People with asthma may experience an asthma attack, which is a sudden worsening of symptoms, making it extremely difficult to breathe. You may struggle to draw a full breath as your chest tightens and breathing quickens. These attacks can be frightening and may require emergency medical treatment. 

Thankfully asthma is treatable. Asthma inhalers, called bronchodilators, are the most common treatment option. Many people have a preventative inhaler, which minimizes their risk of attacks, and a reliever inhaler, which provides quick relief of acute symptoms.

What are the Three Types of Asthma?

There are three main asthma classifications:

  • Nocturnal asthma is the most common type of asthma. People experience most of their symptoms at night, which may be triggered by allergens, cooler airways, and sleeping positions. 

  • Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by physical exertion, such as working out or walking up flights of stairs. Symptoms come on within a few minutes of activity and peak a few minutes after stopping.

  • Allergic asthma, also called seasonal asthma, typically causes symptoms when people inhale allergens. These can include plant and tree pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.

How Does Asthma Limit Your Ability to Work?

Many people diagnosed with asthma manage their symptoms with medications and fully participate in daily life, including their careers. 

However, when asthma is not well-controlled, it can limit your ability to work in the following ways:

  • Restricting your ability to work in environments with pollen, smoke, or animals
  • Limiting your function as you struggle to catch your breath
  • Curbing your ability to perform strenuous or active tasks
  • Disrupting other employees and customers who worry about your symptoms

Is Asthma a Disability Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Under the ADA, any person experiencing physical or mental impairments that seriously limits one or more major life activities has a disability. This definition includes people who only have symptoms at certain times, such as individuals with exercise or allergy-induced asthma. Under this definition, asthma is a disability as it can limit someone’s ability to breathe, eat, work, or attend school.

It’s also worth noting that the 2008 changes to the ADA mean that everyone with asthma, including those who use medications like inhalers, are covered by the act. 

Initially, the act excluded people who used inhalers. The reasoning was that using medication provided enough relief to remove the disability. However, today the ADA recognizes all asthmatics, including those who use medication to control their symptoms.

As all types of asthma are recognized as disabilities under the ADA, this means you have the right to equal access to facilities, goods, and services. Moreover, you shouldn’t miss out on opportunities at school, work, or social groups. 

You also shouldn’t face discrimination. If you feel discriminated against, you can ask for changes to combat the treatment and help you live your life to the greatest extent.

Does Asthma Qualify for Disability?

If you have severe asthma symptoms that prevent you from maintaining a full-time job, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits

You can apply for these payments through your local Social Security Administration office. You’ll need to submit the results of respiratory function tests with your disability claim application to show the severity of your asthma.

To provide a complete overview of your circumstances, you should also include any records of hospitalization. If you require intensive treatment at a hospital for 48 hours or more at least three times in one year, despite following a doctor’s asthma treatment plan, you may qualify for disability due to persistent asthma attacks.

Asthma Can Be Life-Changing

Some people can manage their asthma with medication, but it has lasting power to impact your life as it’s a chronic condition. 

It’s helpful to know that the ADA recognizes the challenges that asthmatics can face. Because it classifies asthma as a disability, you can’t face discrimination because of your health, and you may also be eligible for disability payments depending on the extent and severity of your asthma.

About the Author

Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.

When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.

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