Relationship expert and therapist Lori Gottlieb has some tips for how you can better understand and support people living with asthma. Here are a few things you should keep in mind if you know someone with asthma:
#1: Ask us about our asthma experience.
It’s hard to be open with others about our health, but it’s a conversation that can help everyone in the long run. Create a safe space by asking someone with asthma about what triggers their symptoms (common examples are perfumes, cleaning products, pets) and how you can help during an attack. Lori says that having these types of open conversations will help make your relationships even stronger and even create an opportunity to share what you may need from them as well.
#2: Asthma is unpredictable.
Asthma symptoms can flare up at any moment without warning. Asthma is not just “made up” because it’s invisible, and it’s not just a “little congestion.” It’s unpredictable and always there. So your friend is not trying to bail on your plans or avoid you if they need to cancel or suggest another activity due to their asthma. People living with asthma can be loyal friends and reliable coworkers like anyone else, but they need to put their health first.
#3: We aren’t just “being dramatic.”
While you may not be able to “see” symptoms of asthma, it is a serious and chronic health condition. Especially since for some people living with severe asthma, an attack can actually send them to the hospital. If someone you know has asthma, please take their symptoms and triggers seriously. It’s also something that may be difficult for them to open up about initially. In fact, a recent survey found that 56% of people with asthma said they do not share their asthma status if they don’t have to.
Lori encourages people who know someone with asthma to be compassionate about their chronic condition experience and remain open to playing a supportive role.
#4: Even small adjustments can really help us.
Nearly half (47%) of people with asthma feel that friends, family, and significant others don’t consider their condition when planning social gatherings. Ask how you can help avoid their triggers or what simple accommodations you can make— it may be easier than you think. Sometimes it’s as simple as remembering to vacuum before a gathering or avoiding scented candles. These little things can make all the difference to someone living with asthma.
#5: We want you to experience things, even if we can’t always partake.
There are going to be activities or events someone living with asthma may not be able to participate in every time. But that doesn’t mean they want you to stop enjoying your favorite activities. In fact, 63% of people with asthma feel bad when they or their loved ones can’t participate in certain activities because of asthma.
“I tell the significant others of people with asthma to find other friends who can join in these activities and then create their own traditions with their partner,” Lori says.
Sometimes the answer can also be as simple as making an accommodation to current plans so your loved one with asthma can join. For example, picking a trip destination that has mild weather instead of extreme heat as that can trigger an asthma attack.
Asthma is a chronic condition that shouldn’t be ignored, but it also shouldn’t stop you from experiencing the things you want to do in life. Start having conversations around asthma today to learn how we can best support each other. To learn more about how to communicate about asthma in different relationships, visit TheAirBetweenUsAll.com.
Statistics courtesy of a survey conducted by Amgen and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, November 2022.
This article was paid for by Amgen and created by HuffPost’s Branded Creative Team. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.