Asthma UK community forum

Non-severe asthma and job application

Any mild/moderate asthmatics declared their asthma when applying for a job? I'm applying for a teaching assistant position alongside a PhD, for next year.

With non-severe/moderate asthma (for this purpose I am going to stick with saying asthma because I don't want to confuse the issue with getting into the other stuff), I certainly don't consider that I have a disability or that in general I would need any variety of special provision or be any different from someone with no problems.

However (and this wouldn't have occurred to me before), after needing to take a week off to vegetate at home because of asthma/breathing (ie not an infection) and having to be careful about going out in the cold, and finding symptoms were cropping up when I was running an experiment last week (coincidence probably but they were there): I'm aware that it's possible my breathing could in some minor ways be an issue if I get the job and PhD (they go together, can't have one without the other). Though I'm really hoping that by September I'll have things sorted one way or the other; however I can't count on this and I know winter is always worse for me.

As far as I know, if I do get it the procedure is that I'd fill out a medical questionnaire and occupational health would get in touch if they have any concerns.

I don't really anticipate many problems; it is a science PhD and I would be in a lab sometimes but not working with formalin or other chemicals or anything like that.

I guess I'm just wondering: if I don't have massive attacks or end up in hospital with triggers, do I need to say anything about it now or would I just wait to see if I get the job? I'd much rather NOT bring it up now unless I have to and was thinking this part of the form is probably for people who are in a wheelchair or something or anticipated any major problems (such as actual severe asthma such as some on here have) and hence not for my sort of thing, but if I do get the job and have any problems (even if just having to take time off at any point), I don't want to have them say 'oh you should have told us when you applied'.

I'm not trying to be a hypochondriac and claim that it causes me massive problems or anything because mostly it doesn't; just aware that sometimes bureaucracy can bite when you least expect it!

13 Replies

I don't know about your specific job but whenever i've applied in the past (i currently have 4 jobs so have done applications at least that many times lol) it was always my understanding that the medical bit of the application was kept totally separate from the academic side. I think i was sent for a medical for all my applications - i do remember one was a full-on MOT type - eyes, ears, urine sample, general questions (including things like asking about checking breasts / smears etc!!!). Another one was definitely triggered by the word ""asthma"" cos it was just general questions related to breathing etc

I have always declared my asthma and have also ticked the 'no' box on disability and very luckily got all the jobs i applied for (though one i got in a roundabout way LOL).

I don't think i've ever had to have time off for asthma specifically but all of my bosses are aware of it and at times it's been questioned whether i should be in (usually by colleagues rather than bosses!!!). I'm cough-variant so it's blatently obvious to anyone nearby when i'm struggling but i usually just battle on, much to the annoyance of everyone else LOL


Health issues should not be brought up or discussed in an interview by the interviewers. It is a totally separate thing and they are not allowed to make decisions based on your health. Obviously if you were offered the post, and were required to complete an occupational health form then you would be expected to declare (the NHS ones used to ask about breathing issues as part of the tick box thing). I can remember ticking yes to half the stuff on there lol.

The stuff given to Occ health is confidential and not shared with employers, however they may give advice to the employers or yourself.

Lynda :)


Thanks both for replies!

jinglfairy - wow 4 jobs! Are those all music teaching jobs? I had an idea you were freelance, hadn't thought they would be so concerned about the health side for that. Last time I applied for a job I didn't even mention asthma because I wasn't sure of the diagnosis then and anyway it was milder; did mention a shoulder/spine issue and they just asked me a few questions and made sure I had a good ergonomic desk set-up.

Lynda - that makes sense and answers the question! I had thought it was separate, and in fact the job form just has the disability box. It's the PhD form which has a box saying 'any special needs you want to bring to the attention of the Admissions Tutor' and 'If you have a disability that is likely to affect your studies in any way, you should discuss the practical implications of this at your interview.'

I didn't think it applied for the above reasons ie I haven't got a disability and I didn't think there was anything major enough that I needed to mention it here; if I were, say, a brittle asthmatic prone to sudden severe attacks, then I might feel I should bring it up so they were aware. But as I'm not, I think I will just wait to see if I get the job/PhD; just wasn't sure if I was somehow obliged to mention it here but it makes sense to wait for occ health if I get to that point. :)

Have to say the uni is not the best at admin and the forms are confusing in many ways! Applying for two things separately, both of which use generic forms which assume you are not applying for anything else (the job form is the same I'd use if I wanted to be eg a security guard or work in IT support at the uni), doesn't make it easier.


For a TA postion anyway you might have to do a Occy Health form anyway in which would have to declare it but on he application as you dont see it as a disability I wouldnt put it


Hi philomela, i am a very complicated case employment wise - i'm employed and also freelance! Yes they are all music teaching. I currently work for 4 different education authorities, plus do some totally freelance plus also work in a private music school (which i didn't have an interview or even fill in an application for!!)

Some of my pupils know i'm asthmatic, usually it's come up in conversation as a result of one of them needing / wanting their inhaler or i've suggested they take it before they fully realise it might help. In one of my groups (who do know about me) 3 out of the 4 pupils are all asthmatic!

I hope you get your job and your PhD - best of luck xx


asthmatic music teacher would be a lifesaver in music lessons - i'm a flute player and my old flute teacher really didnt seem to understand that taking my inhaler would not have an immediate effect and expected me to continue immediately, i swear my lungs were louder than the flute :-) what do you teach?


As it happens soph, my main instrument is also flute :-) I actually teach recorder, flute, clarinet, saxophone, keyboard and piano.

If a pupil is suffering asthma-wise i'll always let them have their inhaler and then leave it to them to judge when they feel able to join in again. What i do say though is even if they don't feel they can blow i encourage them to follow with their fingers while others in the group are playing.

The other funny thing is that i can usually tell when the kids are trying to swing the lead ""i can't do that i've got asthma"" sometimes i'll just say yes you can but there have been occasions when my answer has been ""so?!"" the looks on their faces are priceless when it's obvious they're just trying to get out of something and think pulling the asthma card will work

Yes i am evil sometimes hehe


yeah - when i was really bad i had full lessons where i only did the fingering - fortunately my flute is second hand and the keys are slightly sticky now so you can actually hear the note slightly so its not too hard to work out if you've got it right :-) I am guilty of the occasional asthma get-out clause, its good to have a teacher that wont let you mess about - as annoying as it is at the time :-)

I play flute and a tiny bit of clarinet, and hit the road jack on sax (learnt it to see how hard it was - pretty hard is my conclusion)


hehe I never did that with music (I play the oboe and was a mild asthmatic at school, though do vaguely remember having the odd difficulty if coming straight from PE) but I was known to perhaps exaggerate at times with PE which I hated. Though I think tbh the PE teacher would have tried to make me do stuff inappropriately even if I had never tried it on - she was one of those people who is convinced exercise cures absolutely everything which I guess is not surprising for a PE teacher but is not always the case with asthma, particularly in winter.

Thanks for the good luck wishes Jinglfairy - wow that is complicated, do you ever lose track?! I thought I had it bad with a job and a masters that are in no way related to one another! If I get this job at least the job side and the PhD will actually be closely related. Though on the downside I would have to teach statistics...


hehe philomela i did it with PE too, i hated PE in school so anything to get out was a relief - luckliy for me, for at least a couple of years my flute teacher happened to be in school at the same time as i was supposed to be doing PE so i'd do my best to get someone to swap with me so i could get out of PE!

It's quite ironic really cos now i'm VERY active / sporty - swimming / running / dancing / horse riding / cycling! It's funny one of the PE teachers from when i was in school swims on a sunday morning at the same time as me, one day we were chatting in the showers and she looked at me slightly puzzled saying ""you hardly did any PE at school! :-s"" Well i was totally honest with her and said i hated PE back then hahaha


I hated PE, in my opinion the current system only suits a certain type of child - if it hadnt been for my parents I suspect I would have been put off for life. I still dont participate in any team sports. I was never very good at them and kids can be cruel - especially if you're on their team and keep dropping/missing the ball. I LOVE lots of sports, i love swimming, climbing, cycling, climbing, gym stuff, climbing, skiing, climbing, martial arts, and erm... oh yes, climbing :-) But these types of 'individual' sports are completely overlooked by schools. I found running around really hard with my asthma which meant that some team sports i really struggles with and had to play specific positions (often the more boring ones) and I was never any good at them. I think the current system really needs changing! :-) rant over!


Wow Soph, you read my mind! That is pretty much exactly my view of school sports, and I think it did put me off. I hate team sports and find them boring - and yes, not fun when others seem to think they are life and death, but schools have this thing about how team sports are good for teamwork. They never seem to acknowledge that other things can do this (if you play in an orchestra for instance or sing in a choir, you kind of have to work with other people and cooperate), and that if they want to encourage kids to be active it might be an idea to make them not massively bored and feel like all sport is awful, but try and encourage (within reason) everyone to find something they like even if it's not a team sport. And yes, individual ones are definitely better with asthma because you don't have to try and keep up and work to someone else's schedule.

I've been used to thinking of myself as lazy and it's true I always preferred music or reading, but I don't think I'm a massive couch potato (at least I totally failed at being one when instructed to by my GP, but maybe I'm just contrary lol) and I think there are lots of things I'd actually like, though perversely many of them are either expensive (hang-gliding), not possible here (cross-country skiing - also maybe not good right now) or not permitted to those of us with dodgy lungs (scuba diving - possible, apparently, with mild allergic asthma, but not with the slightest hint of cold or exercise setting things off). I do like swimming and it's the one sport I was actually reasonably good at at school, but I need to find a pool that is not hugely steamy and chlorinated.


soph, you've also echoed my thoughts exactly too!

When i was younger i knew i hated PE and so i thought sport per se wasn't for me, i did go to ballet and tap every week (until i was 16 - ballet / 18 - tap) and really enjoyed it but didn't connect that with 'sport'

I don't quite know how i got into being sooooo sporty. It's been a gradual process and it's only in the last 10 years or so i've realised it's not sport i hate but rather ball / team games, i prefer individual sports.

Unfortunately within school they have to involve as many pupils as possible all at once se we get lumbered with team games *sigh*. I'm sure there must be some way of being able ot engage all pupils with a sport or sports that they enjoy but i'm not sure what it is


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